guild socialism

guild socialism, form of socialism developed in Great Britain that advocated a system of industrial self-government through national worker-controlled guilds. The theory, as originated by Arthur J. Penty in his Restoration of the Gild System (1906), stressed the spirit of the medieval craft guilds. In later elaborations by A. R. Orage, S. G. Hobson, and G. D. H. Cole, aspects of Marxism and syndicalism were adopted. Guild socialists held that workers should work for control of industry rather than for political reform. The function of the state in a guild-organized society was to be that of an administrative unit and owner of the means of production; to it the guilds would pay rent, while remaining independent. In 1915 the National Guilds League was created; it had a number of notable writers and speakers, including Bertrand Russell. After World War I several working guilds were formed. However, the most powerful of these, the National Building Guild, collapsed in 1922, and thereafter the movement waned. The National Guilds League was dissolved in 1925. During its existence it had considerable influence on British trade unions.

See G. D. H. Cole, Guild Socialism Restated (1920); N. Carpenter, Guild Socialism (1922); S. T. Glass, The Responsible Society (1966).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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