Democratic Socialism vs. Socialism

By Jaxson

Main Difference

The main difference between Democratic Socialism and Socialism is that the Democratic Socialism is a political ideology and Socialism is a system of government where the means of production are socially owned

  • Democratic Socialism

    Democratic socialism is a political philosophy supporting political democracy within a socially owned economy, with a particular emphasis on workers’ self-management and democratic control of economic institutions within a market socialist economy or some form of a decentralised planned socialist economy. Democratic socialists argue that capitalism is inherently incompatible with the values of freedom, equality and solidarity and that these ideals can only be achieved through the realisation of a socialist society. Although most democratic socialists seek a gradual transition to socialism, democratic socialism can support either revolutionary or reformist politics as means to establish socialism. As a term, it was popularised by social democrats who were opposed to the authoritarian socialist development in Russia and elsewhere during the 20th century.The origins of democratic socialism can be traced to 19th-century utopian socialist thinkers and the British Chartist movement that somewhat differed in their goals yet all shared the essence of democratic decision making and public ownership of the means of production as positive characteristics of the society they advocated for. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, democratic socialism was also influenced by social democracy. The gradualist form of socialism promoted by the British Fabian Society and Eduard Bernstein’s evolutionary socialism in Germany influenced the development of democratic socialism. Democratic socialism is what most socialists understand by the concept of socialism. It may be a very broad or more limited concept, referring to all forms of socialism that are democratic and reject an authoritarian Marxist–Leninist state. Democratic socialism can include libertarian socialism, market socialism, reformist socialism and revolutionary socialism as well as ethical socialism, liberal socialism, social democracy and some forms of state socialism and utopian socialism.Democratic socialism is contrasted to Marxism–Leninism which is viewed as being authoritarian or undemocratic in practice. Democratic socialists oppose the Stalinist political system and the Soviet-type economic system, rejecting the perceived authoritarian form of governance and the centralised administrative command economy that took form in the Soviet Union and other Marxist–Leninist states during the 20th century. Democratic socialism is also distinguished from Third Way social democracy on the basis that democratic socialists are committed to systemic transformation of the economy from capitalism to socialism whereas social democratic supporters of the Third Way were more concerned about challenging the New Right and win social democracy back to power. This has resulted in analysts and critics alike arguing that in effect it endorsed capitalism, even if it was due to recognising that outspoken opposition to capitalism in these circumstances was politically nonviable; and that it was not only anti-socialist and neoliberal, but anti-social democratic in practice. Some maintain this was the result of their type of reformism that caused them to administer the system according to capitalist logic while others saw it as a modern form of democratic liberal socialism theoretically fitting within market socialism, distinguishing it from classical socialism, especially in the United Kingdom.While having socialism as a long-term goal, some democratic socialists who follow social democracy are more concerned to curb capitalism’s excesses and are supportive of progressive reforms to humanise it in the present day. In contrast, other democratic socialists believe that economic interventionism and similar policy reforms aimed at addressing social inequalities and suppressing the economic contradictions of capitalism would only exacerbate the contradictions, causing them to emerge elsewhere under a different guise. These democratic socialists believe that the fundamental issues with capitalism are systemic in nature and can only be resolved by replacing the capitalist mode of production with socialism, i.e. by replacing private ownership with collective ownership of the means of production and extending democracy to the economic sphere.

  • Socialism

    Socialism is a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership of the means of production and workers’ self-management, as well as the political theories and movements associated with them. Social ownership can be public, collective or cooperative ownership, or citizen ownership of equity. There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them, with social ownership being the common element shared by its various forms.Socialist systems are divided into non-market and market forms. Non-market socialism involves replacing factor markets and money with engineering and technical criteria based on calculation performed in-kind, thereby producing an economic mechanism that functions according to different economic laws from those of capitalism. Non-market socialism aims to circumvent the inefficiencies and crises traditionally associated with capital accumulation and the profit system. By contrast, market socialism retains the use of monetary prices, factor markets and in some cases the profit motive, with respect to the operation of socially owned enterprises and the allocation of capital goods between them. Profits generated by these firms would be controlled directly by the workforce of each firm, or accrue to society at large in the form of a social dividend. The socialist calculation debate concerns the feasibility and methods of resource allocation for a socialist system.

    Socialist politics has been both internationalist and nationalist in orientation; organised through political parties and opposed to party politics; at times overlapping with trade unions, and at other times independent and critical of unions; and present in both industrialised and developing nations. Originating within the socialist movement, social democracy has embraced a mixed economy with a market that includes substantial state intervention in the form of income redistribution, regulation, and a welfare state. Economic democracy proposes a sort of market socialism where there is more decentralised control of companies, currencies, investments, and natural resources.

    The socialist political movement includes a set of political philosophies that originated in the revolutionary movements of the mid-to-late 18th century and out of concern for the social problems that were associated with capitalism. By the late 19th century, after the work of Karl Marx and his collaborator Friedrich Engels, socialism had come to signify opposition to capitalism and advocacy for a post-capitalist system based on some form of social ownership of the means of production. By the 1920s, social democracy and communism had become the two dominant political tendencies within the international socialist movement. By this time, socialism emerged as “the most influential secular movement of the twentieth century, worldwide. It is a political ideology (or world view), a wide and divided political movement” and while the emergence of the Soviet Union as the world’s first nominally socialist state led to socialism’s widespread association with the Soviet economic model, some economists and intellectuals argued that in practice the model functioned as a form of state capitalism or a non-planned administrative or command economy. Socialist parties and ideas remain a political force with varying degrees of power and influence on all continents, heading national governments in many countries around the world. Today, some socialists have also adopted the causes of other social movements, such as environmentalism, feminism and progressivism.

  • Socialism (noun)

    Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.

  • Socialism (noun)

    A system of social and economic equality in which there is no private property.

  • Socialism (noun)

    The intermediate phase of social development between capitalism and full communism in Marxist theory in which the state has control of the means of production.

  • Socialism (noun)

    A system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state.

  • Socialism (noun)

    Any left-wing ideology, government regulations, or policies promoting a welfare state, nationalisation, etc.


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