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Thu Jan 21, 2016, 05:39 PM

"Social Democracy" vs "Democratic Socialism"

Social democracy

Social democracy is a political ideology that supports economic and social interventions to promote social justice within the framework of a capitalist economy, and a policy regime involving welfare state provisions, collective bargaining arrangements, regulation of the economy in the general interest, redistribution of income and wealth, and a commitment to representative democracy. Social democracy thus aims to create the conditions for capitalism to lead to greater egalitarian, democratic and solidaristic outcomes; and is often associated with the set of socioeconomic policies that became prominent in Western and Northern Europe – particularly the Nordic model in the Nordic countries – during the latter half of the 20th century.

Social democracy originated as a political ideology that advocated a peaceful, evolutionary transition from capitalism to socialism using established political processes in contrast to the revolutionary approach to transition associated with Orthodox Marxism. However, in the post-war era, contemporary social democracy separated from the socialist movement altogether and emerged as a distinct political identity that advocated reforming rather than replacing capitalism. In this period, social democrats embraced a mixed economy based on the predominance of private property, with only a minority of essential utilities and public services under public ownership. As a result, social democracy became associated with Keynesian economics, state interventionism, and the welfare state, while abandoning the prior goal of abolishing the capitalist system (private property, factor markets and wage labor) and substituting it for a qualitatively different socialist economic system.

Modern social democracy is characterized by a commitment to policies aimed at curbing inequality, poverty, and the oppression of underprivileged groups; including support for universally-accessible public services like education, health care, workers' compensation, child care and care for the elderly. The social democratic movement also has strong connections with trade unions and the labour movement, and is supportive of collective bargaining rights for workers as well as measures to extend democratic decision-making beyond politics into the economic sphere in the form of co-determination for employees and other economic stakeholders. The Third Way, which ostensibly aims to fuse right-wing economics with social democratic welfare policies, is a major ideology that developed in the 1990s and is sometimes associated with social democratic parties, but some analysts have instead characterized the Third Way as an effectively neoliberal movement.


Democratic socialism

Democratic socialism is a political ideology advocating a democratic political system alongside a socialist economic system, involving a combination of political democracy with social ownership of the means of production. Although sometimes used synonymously with "socialism", the adjective "democratic" is often added to distinguish itself from the Marxist–Leninist brand of socialism, which is widely viewed as being non-democratic.

Democratic socialism is usually distinguished from both the Soviet model of centralized socialism and social democracy, where "social democracy" refers to support for political democracy, regulation of the capitalist economy, and a welfare state. The distinction with the former is made on the basis of the authoritarian form of government and centralized economic system that emerged in the Soviet Union during the 20th century, while the distinction with the latter is made in that democratic socialism is committed to systemic transformation of the economy while social democracy is not. That is, whereas social democrats seek only to "humanize" capitalism through state intervention, democratic socialists see capitalism as being inherently incompatible with the democratic values of freedom, equality, and solidarity; and believe that the issues inherent to capitalism can only be solved by superseding private ownership with some form of social ownership. Ultimately democratic socialists believe that reforms aimed at addressing the economic contradictions of capitalism will only cause more problems to emerge elsewhere in the economy, so that capitalism can never be sufficiently "humanized" and must ultimately be replaced by socialism.

Democratic socialism is not specifically revolutionary or reformist, as many types of democratic socialism can fall into either category, with some forms overlapping with social democracy. Some forms of democratic socialism accept social democratic reformism to gradually convert the capitalist economy to a socialist one using the pre-existing political democracy, while other forms are revolutionary in their political orientation and advocate for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the capitalist economy.


If Bernie Sanders didn't insist on calling himself a Democratic Socialist, people wouldn't have to spend so much time trying to redefine the term.

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