Increasing share of young people see capitalism at the root of the world's problem and socialism as being able to resolve their problems, study finds.
New polling by the right-wing Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) reveals that 75 percent of young Brits think socialism is a “good idea.”
The alarmist tone by the foundation is perhaps unsurprising given its ideological worldview. But the study does point to an emerging and longer-term trend that’s taking hold amongst a younger, most socially conscious generation.
In the UK, the emergence of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the opposition Labour party in 2015 revived the left in the country, particularly the young. While he stepped down as leader in 2020, the movement he founded known as Momentum is still active amongst grassroots and predominantly young and in university.
"The rise of mass movements such as Black Lives Matter, Extinction Rebellion, the ‘Greta Thunberg movement’ and Momentum, together with the ‘campus culture wars’, have been significant events over the last few years in politicising the youth in a left-wing direction, the report warns.
It was long assumed that young people go through a left-wing phase when they are younger and, as they grow older, tend to abandon socialist ideas becoming either social democrats or, at the very least, small ‘c’ conservatives.
That conventional wisdom says the report author Dr Kristian Niemietz can’t be a sure guide to the future of how this generation will react.
The report defined the socialist worldview as an “economic system whereby business, trade and industry is mostly run and owned by the government. Prices and wages are determined mainly by the government.”
Millennials, an age group that covers those born between 1981 and 1996, are more “hyper-politicised” and likely to embrace “woke and anti-capitalist ideas,” said the report.
Even those towards the higher end of the millennial age group, who would today be almost 40, still essentially held socialist views, the report warned.
In a poll published in 2016, the British public was more likely to view socialism favourably than capitalism.
The latest report by the IEA, which is also close to the current ruling right-wing Conservative government in the UK, warns policymakers that they should wake up to the growing threat posed by these ideas.
For too long, the prevailing idea amongst neo-liberal figures has been that “young people have always gone through a juvenile socialist phase or they will grow out of it,” says Niemietz from the report.
“There are no detectable differences between the economic attitudes of people in their late teens and people in their early 40s. It is no longer true that people ‘grow out of socialist ideas as they get older.”
The IEA, which campaigns for the privatisation of the UK’s health system, reducing workers rights and relaxing environmental standards as a means of boosting the economy, is also facing an uphill struggle defending those ideas as younger people become increasingly aware of the climate crises facing the planet.
Growing inequality in the UK and a growing sense that capitalism has gone too far and is destroying the environment has resulted in many young people concluding that is what capitalism stands for.
It’s perhaps for this reason that alternatives like socialism, according to the IEA report, many young people associate an alternative to capitalism like socialism with favourable terms like “equal” and “fair”.
The report found that 75 percent of younger people blame capitalism for the climate crisis, and 71 percent believe that capitalism fuels racism. Another 73 percent agree that capitalism fuels selfishness, greed, and materialism, “while a socialist system would promote solidarity, compassion and cooperation."