Distributism as the Solution to Problems

Limoges was France’s first socialist city which was entrenched in many waves of social, political and industrial change towards the end of the 19th century, and the beginning of 20th century. The main cause of these waves was the competition between the trends of production and existence that were in rise. The main two trends that were competing were socialism and the new politics; which were being termed as modernization. John Merriman (1985) imaginatively captures 100 years of transformation in this city where the people were been modernized. Socialism had existed in this city for a long period since 1870s and the city was taking a new direction towards industrial capitalism. The whole state was invulnerable to challenges from the working class. Socialism was being associated with tradition while capitalism was being associated with modernity. Capitalism took some positive reinforcement from 1910-1930. None of the two trends seemed to lose pressure. As such, a solution was to be sought. There was therefore confusion and forces from the two trends, which according to Merriman (1985), saw Limoges city into 100 years of revolution. These were also happening to other states in Europe, due to wars and some cultural changes.

Thesis statement

Socialism is a trend whereby an economy brings all its commodities and means of production to communal use. The social interests of each member are considered in this trend. On the other hand, in capitalism, production in any economy is controlled by self-interest for instance in the case of entrepreneurs. Socialism had existed in this city for long and therefore the struggle to enact modernization had to take long. This is why it took long to be adopted in this city. With the rise of social classes, confusion arose regarding whether to incorporate capitalism or to continue with the traditional socialism trend. A solution to this had to be found, and at last, capitalism took the rule.



This is one of the terms in history which has been wrongly defined. According to Benjamin Tucker (2008) socialism is a system of production where ownership and control of the means of production is communal by the workers in a cooperative. From an economic perspective, socialism may be defined as a system in which  a country’s factors of production are owned by the community, rather than individuals. However, other disciplines define the term differently, but the impression is usually the same. In this city, according to Merriman (1985) people had owned materials and the means of production communally. Some social groups existed in the entire state which controlled the economy. The interests of all members were considered and enacted. Through the previous periods in the state, socialism was taking a new direction after each period. The first period was French Revolution (1789-1792) which was characterized by wars of revolution under Louis XVI. Military campaigns saw the rise of co operations among the people thus improving their social life. The church was one social group that played a big role in enhancing group work. This was a form of anarchism. The next period of socialism was French first Republic (1792-1799). This period reinstated a monarchial government although there were some external wars which almost divided the people (Merriman, 94). The government was the key player in bringing people more close with communal ownership of property. The third period was the first empire (1804-1814) which was under Napoleon. He ensured that the society was united and that materials were communal and to the benefit of the people. These were the periods that saw socialism rise in this city. As Merriman puts it, politics was one of the factors that ensured cooperation among people. All workers in the city cooperated, and at last, a social class of the workers emerged in the last period; the Royalist domination (1871-1879). The church and the state started having disputes that saw many divisions rise in the city. Through the various challenges that faced many cities, there emerged a rapid rise in capitalism. Work, religion, culture and political life were the main factors that saw the rise of capitalism and its development in Limoges. Workers for instance were very organized and each one performed his work for his own good. Merriman (1985) sees the cooperation that had existed between the butchers, priests, laundresses and porcelain workers in their aim to bring up a social city. This then came to be known as the first French city (Weber, 64).

New politics (capitalism)

This was a kind of modernization where each individual was seen capable of producing for his own consumption. This means that no form of communal sharing of materials exists in this kind of economy. It is imperative to note that like socialism, capitalism has multidisciplinary definitions. In economics, capitalism is defined as a system whereby factors of production are owned by individuals rather than the state. Decision to produce is  made at an individual level. Merriman (1985) puts it that this is a political philosophy of dividing the society as it happened in this city. Rise of the class of workers and long depression saw the rise of capitalism which is a hindering factor to any revolutionary changes since there is no cooperation any more. Every individual in this kind of economic system is only worried about personal needs, and his well being and this makes revolutions challenging (Blond, 123).

The two forms of production are very different as it was in this city. It is said that after capitalism was fully incorporated in Limoges, there was no further revolutions. The end of 19th century therefore saw the end of revolutions in France as a whole. Despite this, France emerged as a powerful state compared to its neighbors like Britain and Russia (Merriman, 86).

Relation between socialism and capitalism

The 100 years that saw Limoges change from socialism to capitalism were of great importance to the history of France. The two trends are always aimed at making the economy of the state be better no matter consideration or non-consideration of individual interests. Socialism in Limoges made some people be dependent and lazy since they lacked the incentive to work. This was partly due  to the fact that an individual could not benefit proportionately from his efforts. A person’s effort could only benefit the entire society, including the lazy. During this time, the city was very dirty with some sewage lines blocking (Weber, 98). Communalism meant that individuals were not ready to work. Just like it has been in other nations like Tanzania in East Africa, socialism makes some individuals be dependent on others. Indeed, Merriman (1985) calls them parasites. This was inhumane, and it promoted some vices like laziness. In the socialism trend, the city economy grew at a slow pace. This was mainly due to the fact that neighbors were not included in the affairs, and thus, there lacked competition and diversification of goods. With change to capitalism during the last empire period, the city recorded impressive economic growth rates. This was partly attributed to the fact some neighbors like Britain were free to carry out affairs like trade in this city due to the fact that each person was looking after individual interests and not the interests of the people in the society (Blond, 35).

Socialism sees to it that there is industrial unionism where all individuals direct their efforts to making the economy better. This was evident in the 1890s when the workers in this city worked much for the benefit of others in the society. Vices like competition were brought up at around 1940s as people began looking at their personal wellbeing. The meaning of development was changed from a basic approach of communal life sustenance to another approach of individual life sustenance. Capitalism in this city brought up different classes of people (Merriman, 36). There arose the poor class, whose members were entrenched in extreme poverty and acted as the producers for the upper class, the middle class, who acted as a link between the producers and the capitalists, the upper class who were the owners of the entrepreneurs. This also saw the rise of slums in this city, since the poor were segregated from the rich. Unlike in this situation, communism was a good arm for eradicating poverty since all people belonged to the same class. Capitalism is a form of individualism while socialism is a form of humanitarianism (Weber, 25).

Capitalism saw to it that everyone in the society had to participate in the production, either as producers or capitalists. The increase in the number of capitalists saw the diversification of products which later led to growth of competitive markets. On the contrary, condition in socialism was that not all members of the society contributed in production. However in socialism there was syndicalism since all workers were allowed to own the property. The introduction of capitalism also made the political sector change from anarchism to monarchism. People were now supposed to follow the constituted laws and stay in a free community; like in socialism. In socialism, the reformists and revisionists were the individual themselves since there was no set constitution. Individuals in socialism were reformed by the society while in capitalism they reformed themselves so that they could fit in the system of production (Merriman, 62).

Despite the many differences in these two forms of production that were in this city, they all have the same point of; one seeing to it that life is sustained, individuals feel independent and respected and lastly that they are free from some evils like murder. The point of departure between the two systems is that socialism happens under communal grounds while capitalism happens under individual grounds (Blond, 109). This implies that in socialism, the decision to produce is made at a communal level while in capitalism, the decision is made at an individual level.


The 100 years that John Merriman (1985) took into consideration in his book saw the change of the mode of production in Limoges change from socialism to capitalism. The two are very different and challenging trends. Other trends like democracy were still in practice in this city, but they had little impact on the economy. Capitalism saw the end of revolution in this city since each individual directed his efforts into his well being, and thus, saw no need of reforming the society. There was a rise of classes with the rise of capitalism. There was also rise of slums in the city; the poor became the producers for the benefit of the capitalists who owned the means of production. Diversification of goods also emerged, as capitalists increased and thus competition stiffened. Change from capitalism was a new direction towards technological advancement since each capitalist had to find the cheapest and the most effective production technique.

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