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ENCYCLOPEDIC ENTRY
ENCYCLOPEDIC ENTRY

Socialism

Socialism

Socialism is a political and economic system wherein property and resources are owned in common or by the state.

Grades

5 - 8

Subjects

Civics, Economics, Social Studies

Image

Socialists Protesting

The economic philosophies of socialism and capitalism are opposed. Protesters demonstrate against a plan to sell off public healthcare (a socialist stance) to private corporations (a capitalist stance) on April 30, 2019 at Queen's Park in Toronto, Ontario

Photograph by Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto

Socialism is, broadly speaking, a political and economic system in which property and the means of production are owned in common, typically controlled by the state or government. Socialism is based on the idea that common or public ownership of resources and means of production leads to a more equal society.

General Socialism

In defining socialism, it's imporant to first define capitalism. Capitalism is based on private ownership of resources and means of production, and individual choices in a free market. This is in contrast to socialism. According to socialist philosophy, these features of capitalism lead to inequalities in wealth and hence power, and the exploitation of workers. According to socialism, notions of individual freedom and equality of opportunity are available only to those who control the means of production. In a capitalist society, this means a few rich capitalists hold power at the expense of the working class. In a socialist system, however, it is argued that since everyone controls the means of production, everyone is free.

Communism

Communism is a form of socialism based on the writings of German philosopher and economist Karl Marx. In a fully realized communist society, all property and goods are commonly owned by a society without government or class divisions. In such a society, production and distribution of goods is handled, according to Karl Marx, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

Democratic Socialism

Democratic socialism is a form of socialism which emphasizes that both the economy and society should be run democratically, and that the goal is to meet the needs of all the people, not just a rich few. Some socialists argue that socialism does not necessarily require the government to run everything. Instead, business institutions should be run by those workers and consumers that are affected by them. This could be implemented, for example, as worker-run cooperatives or publicly owned enterprises managed by workers and consumer representatives.

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Director
Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
Author
National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
Producer
Clint Parks
other
Last Updated

May 20, 2022

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