What is socialism?

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September 24, 2015 10:03PM

Socialism generally refers to an economic system based on public ownership and operation of the means of production (capital goods, assets and production equipment) with ownership vested in either a public body or in the workers who operate the enterprise.

There are several key variants of socialism that can be differentiated based on their economic mechanism (economic planning or market economics), their type of ownership (public ownership or worker's cooperatives), and how goods and services are valued.

Socialism may also refer to political ideologies and movements that have the establishment of socialism as their ultimate goal.

There are a number of different issues socialism seeks to resolve and goals socialism aims to achieve. Among socialism's key goals include:

  • The profits created by industry belong to society and can be used to fund public goods or be distributed among all members of the public;
  • Allowing for self-management within the economy for individuals and workers, granting them greater autonomy and control over their work;
  • The promotion of social equality and equitable use of the profits created by society;
  • Eliminating exploitation caused by private ownership of the means of production, so that one's income is proportional to how much one contributes to society;
  • Eliminating the economic crises, business cycle and unemployment caused by capitalism.

There are different varieties of socialism. In general, they share a desire for egalitarianism, by which they mean equality as the oppurtunity to achieve self-actualization, and not just equality before the law.


Socialism - Economic vs Political

One thing the above gets a bit confused with is that in modern-day academic usage, socialism is mostly an economic idea, not a political idea. When talking about political socialism, usually it is referred to by another name, which specifies how the socialist economic policy is to be implemented; see things like Social democracy, Communism, Leninism and Maoism. Economic socialism by itself says nothing about the way that wealth should be distributed per se - that is, a socialist economy does not have to have one particular form of political system structure.

Commonly, Socialism (with the capital 'S') is a shorthand for Marxism, while socialism (with a lower-case 's') refers to the socialism economic theory.
Socialism means two related things:

An economic system based on social ownership of the means of production, collective-decision making in management, and production organized directly for use. There are several hypothetical versions of socialism, such as market-based socialism, planned economies and decentralized-planning.

Socialism also refers to a political ideology and political movement working toward the establishment of a socialist economy. This might encompass any policies or values held by that movement.
Socialism is where the government owns the industry of the country.