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What is Democratic Socialism?

J.M. Densing
J.M. Densing

The term "democratic socialism," in its purest sense, would mean a socialistic society that is under a democratic government. Both democracy and socialism are based on the ideal of equality. Democracy is a form of government in which the citizens participate, assisting to various degrees in governing themselves. Socialism is an economic concept that calls for sharing the wealth of a society among all of its members, rather than more wealth being held by some people than by others.

Equally Beneficial to All

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

People who support the idea of democratic socialism typically believe that decisions in a society should be made by considering the needs of all of the people, not just the wealthy or powerful. This applies to economic and social decisions. Some important beliefs among democratic socialists are that resources and wealth should be used to benefit all members of a society and that economic institutions should be controlled and owned by the people who are affected by them. They also typically believe in the ideal of all members of a society having a voice in the decisions that affect them. This stands in contrast with the communist form of socialism, in which an all-powerful government owns all the resources and industries, and decisions are made for the people instead of by them.

Citizens in Control

Under democratic socialism, the government usually is envisioned as being controlled by the citizens, with the primary goal of making decisions to benefit society as a whole. This democracy would be characterized by equality among the people as well. There would be no preferential treatment for the rich or important, and members of the government would live like average citizens. In addition, there would be no discrimination on the basis of race, religion, economic status, gender or any other difference.

Shared Resources

A key goal of democratic socialism is an economy in which resources are shared, rather than left in the hands of the wealthy, as is often the case in a capitalist economy. One way of accomplishing this would be by establishing cooperatives that are owned and operated by the workers, rather than having large capitalist corporations. Another option would be putting corporations under public ownership and having them managed by both the consumers and the workers. Extremely large industries, such as energy, might require some type of government ownership or control, but the main goal would be to keep the economy under the control of the general public.

Social Programs

A society living in a system of democratic socialism also would be committed to meeting the needs of all of its citizens. A wide variety of needs would be met through social programs that are designed to benefit every citizen and ensure a high quality of life. Examples of such programs include universal childcare, free or subsidized education, national healthcare systems that provide access for all and other social services. As of 2011, democratic socialism had not been fully implemented by any government, but some countries did have specific programs that would be part of the vision of a democratic socialist.

Discussion Comments


It seems like a fairly balanced overview. One correction, though. What you describe as “the communist form of socialism” is more accurately labeled state socialism, or centralized socialism. Communism (another system that has never actually been implemented on a national scale, and likely never will be) posits the complete absence of a state, with the entire socialist economy operating on a voluntary basis. It’s theoretically a form of anarchism, with neither state nor democratic control.

The nations controlled by Communist Party elites never claimed to have achieved communism. The theory was that the Party would “boot strap” a socialist system, and then the state would peacefully wither away unneeded, once everything was functioning.


We must go to a Democratic Socialist government to bring the Oligarchy we now have into control. It has been this way for decades and getting worse every day. Our votes no longer matter, our politicians are bought and paid for by not only America's billionaires but any big corporation or very rich person anywhere in the world and this is the most dangerous situation for all of us.


I read this article and the way the author described it, it sounds very good to me. Why are people against it?


I would rather see a complete fragmentation of the United States into separate nations or even just a loose network of federated nations than fall to this European style of government control over individuals, their wealth, and their life choices.


I'm not either of the anons below, but anyway: While I love the idea of democratic socialism (personal favorite), I don't believe it would work with America right now. So, as far as the first poster is concerned, I'd throw it under a negative light. Socialistic ideals are great for America, but a pure socialist state in a country such as this one at this time might just, well, fail horrendously.


do you mean that in a bad or good way?


This is it. This is what our great country is becoming.

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