social-economic system with social ownership of the means of production, as well as ideologies and movements that aim to implement it
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Socialism is a political ideology that aims to make people equal. It generally focuses on equality of wealth (eg. similar wages, housing, education, healthcare), although since the 1960s, it has often focussed on equality of power. It is normally considered left-wing, because it seeks to change society. Socialists movements often side with people who they think are disadvantaged and work to change laws and policies to increase equality.

New Harmony, a model community presented by Robert Owen, 1838

Socialists strongly disagree on how equal society should be, and how much violence should be used to make society equal. Types of socialism called the Third Way and Social Democracy are usually considered to be more moderate, and want a democratic country with large welfare benefits for the poor and cheap (if not free) healthcare. In contrast, communists are more extreme and believe that socialism can only be created through a violent revolution that destroys the oppressive system.

Socialists have traditionally criticised capitalism, and therefore set up organisations to support poorer people in a capitalist economy, such as workers and peasants. Since the 1960s, there has been a gradual shift away from these groups towards other groups, such as ethnic minorities, women, and queer people. This is termed identity politics.

Liberals criticise socialism for caring too much about groups and ignoring the human rights of individuals, such as to their property and freedom of speech. Socialists argue that protecting these human rights might maintain oppression and prevent society becoming more equal. Conservatives criticise socialism for being impractical (eg. too expensive to implement) and for suggesting that there are not good and bad values (just different values that are all equal). Socialists disagree, saying that conservatives can represent oppressive people who are finding excuses to protect their status.

Forms of socialismEdit

There are many kinds of socialism. In all types, at least in principle, the state or workers own the means of production.[1] Mean of production is originally a communist term which describes the tools that are needed to make goods. In a capitalist economy, these tools are normally owned by one person, and can range from a machine in a factory to an entire corporation. The one person hires workers for a wage, and keeps any profits made. The profit is not split up amongst the workers, and this can create inequality as the owner of the mean of production may be able to become very wealthy.

The major differences between the different varieties are the role of the free market (market planning), how the means of production are controlled, the role of management of workers, and the government's role in the economy.


One kind of socialism is "collectivization." In this system, money and goods are shared more equally among the people, with the government in control. In theory, this system results in the gap between classes getting smaller, with the state helping the nation's poorest people, while the richest agree to higher taxes and economic restrictions.

Communism as a goalEdit

Socialists with more radical views believe that socialism will evolve into what they see as a more advanced system: communism, with no state, money, hierarchy or social classes whatsoever.[source?] In Marxist theory, socialism is a temporary social state between capitalism and communism, although some socialists have no intention of transitioning to communism.[source?]

Many label these economic theories into one as "communism" when they mean the Marxist and Leninist ideas and beliefs of Russia's Bolshevik party. Marx believed that capitalism followed the economic and political system of feudalism. He also believed that capitalism would unfairly treat many people and that those people would eventually revolt and switch to socialism. He also thought that socialism could be another bridge on a path to communism. However, many people incorrectly use the term "Communist" to refer to a socialist state as a pejorative insult. Others call this 'State Socialism,' to distinguish it from the communist goal that does not need a state or any form of government. To non-communists, the word 'socialism' is now used mostly for attempts to come close to this goal in a capitalist state.

Democratic socialismEdit

Democratic socialism is the belief that socialism can be achieved through reform of what Marxists call Bourgeois Democracy[2]―as opposed to achieving socialism by a revolution. The goals of these reforms are aimed to achieve a more just society, so that ordinary people can participate in the many decisions that affect their lives.

Social democracyEdit

Social democracy is a type of socialism that attempts to mix parts of socialism with capitalism. In this system, despite there still being private property, the government generates tax revenue, typically from the wealthiest in the society and corporations, and distributes it to the poor, or even everyone in the society, via in the form of social programs. These programs range from single-payer healthcare, to other welfare programs such as expanding SNAP benefits. While the intentions of social democracy and socialism can be similar or shared, social democracy keeps the capitalist system intact, and tries to reforms it. Achieving socialism would mean completely getting rid of the capitalist system. Social democracy is often confused with democratic socialism due to the similar names and having the same short-term goals. The biggest difference is social democrats want to stop reforming capitalism when they think their reforms are good enough, but democratic socialists will not stop until capitalism is gone. Some examples of social democracies are the Scandinavian countries.

In social democracies, some services and industries are subsidized (given subsidy money to help them run), partly controlled by the government, or both. For example, education, health care, housing, utility companies and public transportation are some industries that might be owned/supported by the government in a social democracy. For the most part, people working in these industries are paid by the government, with money paid by the people as taxes. A strong Welfare system is key to social democracy.

Utopian socialismEdit

Utopian socialism is the first form of modern socialism. Unlike other forms of socialism, utopian socialism doesn't include belief in the necessity of class struggle.


Anarcho-socialism, also called anarchist socialism, libertarian socialism or free socialism is the thought that believes in a socialist society where the state does not exist. Anarcho-socialists believe that both the state and the bourgeois class (the class that owns the means of production in capitalism) oppresses the workers and a stateless mutual aid society should be established through a revolution. Mutual aid is the belief that people in a community (for example city districts or towns and villages) should help each other when necessary.

Anarcho-socialism is very similar to anarcho-communism, and many anarcho-socialists are anarcho-communists


Many people and countries see socialism differently. The Socialist International is an organization dedicated to the cause of promoting socialist ideals, and has ties with many socialist parties, especially Social Democratic parties.


The followers of a Welshman, Robert Owen, began calling themselves socialists in 1841.[3] Owen is seen as a founder of the Co-operative Movement in Britain. He said that workers should own the companies they worked for. The workers would then share the profits among themselves. He set up a new model factory in New Lanark, Scotland.[4]

Karl Marx is the most well-known creator of the theory of socialism, and of communism. He wrote a book about capitalism, socialism, and communism, called "A critique of the social economy". Friedrich Engels co-wrote the book, and paid for much of Marx's work and research.

Many socialist political parties were formed during the 19th century and early part of the 20th century. During the decolonization movement in the 20th century, many armies fighting for independence planned to establish socialist countries.

Related pagesEdit


  1. Lamb, Peter & J.C. Docherty. 2006. Historical dictionary of socialism. Lanham, Maryland, UK; Oxford, England, UK: Scarecrow Press. p. 1.
  2. "On Authority". Retrieved 2023-02-15.
  3. Gale (2001). "Socialism" . World of Sociology. Retrieved 15 June 2011.
  4. "Socialism". Encyclopedia of World Trade From Ancient Times to the Present. 2005. Retrieved 15 June 2011.