Merriam-Webster announced in early December that the words “Socialism” and “Capitalism” were the two most-frequently looked-up words in 2012. These words were most often queried together—in other words, if someone looked up “Socialism” they also looked up “Capitalism,” possibly demonstrating a desire to compare the meanings of the two words.
“The culture is thinking about what is in the news and it draws them to the dictionary to begin their research,” said Peter Sokolowski , Merriam-Webster’s Editor-at-large., the dictionary publisher who launched the internet-based dictionary in 1996 that now gets more than 100,000 hits a month.
Although these queries cannot be equated with a revolutionary shift in consciousness, it does show that people’s thinking is dynamic and affected by the material contradictions in society.
The bourgeois elections in which the word “socialism” was repeated over and over again as an epithet likely correlated with the interest in these words. Another public forum in which these words were frequently used were the debates around healthcare.
Fox News even aired an O’Reilly Factor episode entitled “Capitalism vs. Socialism” with Bill O’Reilly promoting the idea that socialism means “income redistribution” (he failed to mention expropriating of the wealth stolen by the rich) and that Obama really isn’t a socialist since he “has not seized assets.” Sources such as Fox News could account for a some of the confusion about the meaning of these terms or in the increased interest.
This trend in the exploration of words that describe social systems is a further development of the consciousness that arose in 2011 with the Occupy movement that brought about the slogan “We are the 99 percent.”
The 2012 queries could be understood as an attempt by people to seek out the cause and solution to the social divide exposed by the Occupy movement. One certainty is that as working people ring in the New Year, they will continue to make observations and act in seeking change for a better life.
Perhaps the interest in revolutionary meanings, word-smithing and even sayings will grow in the coming year reflecting a growing desire for a transformation of society—a transformation that the working class can win through independent action and revolutionary organization. Like the Jamaican proverb says: “A little axe can cut down a big tree.” And it seems the little axes have started chopping.