Socialism vs Social Democracy — What’s The Difference?

It’s very interesting living in the United States, where democracy came into its modern existence… but where its expression is also most truncated.

Americans are politically aware of only two political/economic dimensions: Republican or Democrat; Conservative or Liberal; Right or Left; Capitalist or Socialist; Big Government or Small Government; Free-Market or Communist…

We are politically poorer for it and, hence, less respectful of nuanced but significant differences in perspective, less respectful of other alternatives to the current political structure…. and therefore, afford ourselves less opportunity for new solutions to solve our varied and serious problems.

I am almost constantly defending myself against the accusation of being a “Socialist” — an insult in America — when what I am is far from it. But even so, what is wrong with one supporting a socialist perspective? Or a Libertarian perspective? Nothing. Neither is a perspective that I maintain, but they’re certainly valid for anyone else if this is indeed a free society of democratic values and expression.

And, if that is true, why are these other perspectives not proportionally represented in the United States government through our elected branches? And, now we’re back to where we started and where our political expression is truncated.

So, let me shed some light on the nuanced but significant difference between Socialism and Social Democracy…. between a Socialist and a Social Democrat (distinctions and movements quite well understood everywhere outside the United States).

Socialism vs Social Democracy — What’s The Difference?

  • One is about collective ownership of the means of production;
  • the other about organic social solidarity with private ownership of production.
  • One is restrictive;
  • the other libertarian.
  • One is metaphysical (excessively abstract reasoning);
  • the other empirical (demonstrable, verifiable reasoning).
  • One is dogmatic;
  • the other scientific.
  • One is emotional;
  • the other reflective.
  • One is destructive;
  • the other constructive.
  • Both are in pursuit of the greatest possible welfare for all.

    – One aims to establish happiness for all;

    – the other to enable each to be happy in one’s own way.

  • The first regards the State as a society “sui generis,” of a unique essence, the product of a right outside of and above all society, with special rights and able to exact special obediences;
  • the second considers the State as an association like any other, generally managed no better and no more efficient than others.
  • The first proclaims the sovereignty of the State;
  • the second recognizes no sort of sovereign.
  • One wishes all monopolies to be held by the State;
  • the other wishes the abolition of all monopolies.
  • One wishes the governed class to become the governing class;
  • the other wishes the disappearance of classes.
  • Both declare that the existing state of things cannot last.

    – The first considers revolutions as the indispensable agent of evolutions;

    – the second teaches that repression alone turns political evolutions into revolution.

  • The first has faith in a cataclysm;
  • the second knows that social progress will result from the free play of individual efforts.
  • One wishes that there should be none but proletariats;
  • the other wishes that there should be no more proletariats.
  • The first wishes to take everything away from everybody;
  • the second wishes to leave each in possession of its own.
  • The one wishes to expropriate everybody;
  • the other wishes everybody to be a proprietor.
  • The first says: Do as the government wishes;
  • the second says: Do as you wish yourself.
  • The former threatens with despotism;
  • the latter promises liberty.
  • The former makes the citizen the subject of the State;
  • the latter makes the State the employee of the citizen.
  • One proclaims that labor pains will be necessary to the birth of a new world;
  • the other declares that real progress will not cause suffering to any one.
  • The first has confidence in social war;
  • the other believes only in works of peace.
  • One aspires to command, to regulate, to legislate;
  • the other wishes to attain the minimum of command, of regulation, of legislation.
  • One would be followed by the most atrocious of reactions;
  • the other opens unlimited horizons to progress.
  • The first will fail;
  • the other will succeed.
  • One desires equality; the other seeks equity.

    – The first by lowering heads that are too high;

    – the other by raising heads that are too low.

  • One sees equality under a common yoke;
  • the other will secure equity in complete liberty.
  • One is intolerant;
  • the other tolerant.
  • One frightens;
  • the other reassures.
  • The first wishes to instruct everybody;
  • the second wishes to enable everybody to instruct one’s self.
  • The first wishes to support everybody;
  • the second wishes to enable everybody to support one’s self.
  • One says:

    – The land to the State

    – The mine to the State

    – The tool to the State

    – The product to the State

  • The other says:

    – The land to the cultivator.

    – The mine to the miner.

    – The tool to the laborer.

    – The product to the producer.

  • One is the infancy of Socialism;
  • the other is its manhood.
  • One is already the past;
  • the other is the future.
  • One will give way to the other…

Based upon the writing of ~ Ernest Lesigne – Liberty V, 10 (December 17, 1887), No. 114, p. 5.


38 responses to “Socialism vs Social Democracy — What’s The Difference?

  • laurensheil

    I just cam across your blog through tag surfing on WordPress. I find your take on socialism and social democracy to be similar to my own. I and look forward to reaning more of your posts.

  • Jim Andrews

    BTW the original author made no mention of social democrat vs socialist. I did a bit more digging and it is starting to gel that this was a communist vs socialist comparison that I remember from the 1960s that was used to try to get more people to accept socialism, since communism was so vilified. Here’s a little more from the work. Sounds like Faust might be taking it a bit out of context himself to suit his own spin.
    “Socialistic Letter
    [Le Radical] There are two Socialisms. One is communistic, the other solidaritarian. One is dictatorial, the other libertarian. One is metaphysical, the other positive. One is dogmatic, the other scientific. One is emotional, the other reflective. One is destructive, the other constructive.”

    • Coronare Modestus Faust

      Oh, indeed, Faust DID take it “a bit out of context himself to suit his own spin.” Of course. Dude…I’m the one trying to make a specific point, and so everything will be posited to suit and make THAT point. In this regard and this specific instance, you should read the entire composition posted in comparison to the original, and you will find quite clearly that certain words and phrases are changed from the original. The piece was modified to suit modern times and MY specific point. MY point…not the original author’s point from 1887 but for… (for, not from)…for…our current age. It was not included as a historical documentary reproduction. Thus, it concludes in italicized as “Based upon the writing of ~…” Based upon. Based upon. Get it : ) Were I to draft a new US constitution, it would be based upon… based upon… the current version but most certainly modified to suit a more modern age than when it was written. As you pointed out, back when originally written, the original author tried to compare a harshly regarded Communism against Socialism to emphasize Socialism’s more positive attributes as too many saw socialism and communism as the same in 1887. My point is to use the same mechanism to highlight socialism (regarded harshly today) against the more positive attributes of Social Democracy as too many see socialism and social democracy as the same today. Here endeth the lesson : ) Be well, and thanks for writing.

      • Mitchina

        Yes, just one more “shove” closer to socialism. Your piece was modified to suit your agenda to redefine Social Democracy. If in the original comparison communism got the bad wrap and Socialism the good rap, you are essentially re-labeling Socialism as Social Democracy as you clearly describe it yourself. I do not agree with the original comparison or yours that Socialism is beneficial to anyone no matter what label you make-up or how you want to misdefine it. You efforts are impressive the way you try to make socialism more acceptable – tolerable, palatable and easy to swallow to nudge us one step closer to being deep in it by saying the so called form of Social Democracy is good when in fact it is SOCIALISM, period! It is not what you are trying to re-define it to be. We are less Socially Democratic and more Socialist due to the never ending efforts such as yours to convince people of an alternate reality. We completely understand your objective here – as slanted as it is, and you openly claim it to be. The arrogance is amazing, then again… it’s an era of acceptable progressivism to be the new, kewl hip way of thinking.

        • Coronare Modestus Faust

          Well, I’m pleased that you found my efforts “impressive.” I do have to point out that you prove my very point from the intro to the piece. You adamantly refuse to accept that there is any meaningful difference between socialism and social democracy/social capitalism, despite my clear effort to articulate the difference. Thus you proved my statement, “Americans are politically aware of only two political/economic dimensions: Republican or Democrat; Conservative or Liberal; Right or Left; Capitalist or Socialist; Big Government or Small Government; Free-Market or Communist…”

          You also, then, prove my statement, “We are politically poorer for it and, hence, less respectful of nuanced but significant differences in perspective, less respectful of other alternatives to the current political structure… and therefore, afford ourselves less opportunity for new solutions to solve our varied and serious problems.”

          Not to get caught up in the myriad differences between socialism and social capitalism, but economics clearly distinguishes that socialism seeks the state ownership of the major production industries, a mechanism to “protect the worker” but most importantly as a means to fund government social programs through production earnings. Social Democrats do not advocate state ownership of industry and, in fact, know private ownership of business to be the most productive and efficient. What the Social Democrat seeks is that the productive effort of private industry profit the owner and shareholders plus also the workers and stakeholders as well as society as a whole. This is accomplished through regulations, legal worker representation within enterprises (in europe most Board of Directors include a representative from labor and other stakeholders), and taxes to fund social programs and, yes, redistribute a portion of national income. Structurally this is a significant difference, with even more meaningful but more nuanced differences.

          As for naming me and my effort “arrogant” because I correctly called out my own clear objective, well… that’s just being bitter. Any clear writer should properly point out their objective.

          We don’t have to agree, but we should respect each others opinions. Democracy demands as much. The lack of respect we see in your comment to me and as we see from the absolutist Tea Party advocates and politicians is destroying America’s democracy to the point that only the winner of elections has voice and dominates over the minority party of segment of citizens. I would hope that two individuals like you and me could do better. I’m trying by attempting to explain to you above why I disagree with your comment rather than just calling you names or assigning ill motives to your effort.

          Be well, and thanks for writing.

  • Jim Andrews

    Cool. Points taken. So some decades (or less) from now when “Social Democracy” has failed (pan over to the debt crises we see going on in Europe) and the term is harshly regarded, you can always invent a new term and try to spin that. And by that time hopefully people like that Jim Andrews guy won’t be around to remember the last iteration or two. Continuous rebirth. Nice concept. Good work dude. Be well too.

    • Coronare Modestus Faust

      I understand your point, and the debt crisis is important. The European debt crisis (and the US) isn’t a result of Social Democracy, though. I’ve written about it and its causes not too long ago on this blog. I am an economist, and I clearly have a biased perspective as a result. But, I think its a thoughtful perspective, nonetheless. The European debt crisis in a nutshell is a result of how they financed the bank bailouts in combination with an incompletely formed European Central Bank/Euro Monetary System. I won’t argue the fact here and now, but that is the root cause. I don’t however, understand your antagonism to renaming and reinterpreting socialism to its more modern and, in its implementation, different social democracy/social capitalism (original socialism calls for government ownership of the major factors of production, while Social Democracy calls for private ownership the factors while retaining the same social benefit goals). I will never walk away from the perspective that business and capitalism must serve a social purpose as well as private purpose. Unrestrained/unregulated Capitalism failed in the financial markets, yet right-wing conservative Americans continue to rename and reinterpret the problem. But, let’s face it, we don’t agree. You seem antagonistic about it. Well, don’t be. This is just personal blog about my opinions, perspectives, and interests. I have never asked for anyone to agree with me or my prerogatives. It’s for folks to stop by, learn something if they want and gain some perspective of another’s viewpoint. And, most importantly, it’s for me to enjoy. Thanks again for stopping by. Be well.

      • Susan Sherry

        Thank you for sharing your opinions ,perspectives, and interests. I feel as though I have a better understanding of Social Democracy. You have nailed it on our unrestrained and unregulated Capitalism, and how it has failed us. Be well.

  • American Socialist

    I really enjoyed this. Although I consider myself a socialist, I am a democratic socialist and therefore am much more closely aligned with “Social Democrats” than any other ideology (Socialism is a pretty big umbrella term). I suppose sometimes words are only as deep as the ink on the paper. Regardless, I agree with your political positions and am in full support of what you advocate. That being said, I suppose you could call me a “Social Democrat” as well.

  • Anonyme

    This is a little silly given that, if we look at self-styled ‘social democrats’ around the globe, they tend to be: pro-neoliberal reforms, pro-IMF, pro-NATO and “humanitarian war”, pro-capitalist NGOs, pro-finance capital, at least moderately pro-Israel, etc. So, actually, they are far more destructive than socialists, who tend to be pacifists, and Communists, who at least have a solid reading of geopolitics and do not actively shill for the dark side.

    Even the new government in France, what are they announcing? Attack Syria abroad and austerity at home.

  • CatholicLeftwinger

    I find this an interesting article but more a personal take than a correct historical dichotomy.
    Social Democracy as a philosophy has in no way ever been described as ‘libertarian’ which is far too much of an individualistic concept rooted in utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is counter to all forms of collective political movemenst of the centre-left to left.
    What you desribe as social democracy is rather of the Radical tradition of Italy and France. Social Democracy is actually from the same root of Democratic Socialism (despite the eventual neo-liberalism of some parties that bear the name, eg. the Portugese SDP). In Europe, Social Democracy is often interchangeable as a phrase with Democratic Socialism but it isn’t quite the loaded phrase found in the febrile US political environment.

    • Coronare Modestus Faust

      Your are absolutely technically correct, and I agree with your supposition about “Libertarianism.” Unfortunately, “libertarian” has become a charged word as well as “socialism.” I am diametrically opposed to Libertarianism. My reference is to “other” root meaning of libertarian: “a doctrine advocating civil liberty and free thought.” The philosophy of Libertarianism (channeling Ayn Rand) has tainted the “other” references underlying the term which relate to liberty. For me, the small “l” libertarian refers to an understanding of the absurdity of “consensual crimes” that harm no persons not consenting and the primacy of freedom of thought and dissent. If you will note, I refer to “Libertarianism” in the opening remarks. Certainly, though, the distinction could have been more clearly made on my end. Thanks for visiting, and thanks for your insights.

  • Rachel

    As a read in other comments socialism has a wide range of ideas and what it could mean. I have called my self a democratic socialist. However, I do believe in worker self directed enterprises. I do not believe the government should control them. I believe that everyone has a right to free thought and free speech.I also think that our current system in the US needs to change and that big business/wall street have such a large say.
    I thought your article was really well writen and brought up some interesting points.

  • A new era for the Social Democratic welfare state | Avalikud mõttevälgatused

    […] Huvitavaid mõtteid oli ka Lõuna-Euroopa kohta. Seal pole sellist sujuvat koostööd ja arutelu ametiühingute ja vasakpoolsete vahel nagu Põhjamaades, õieti ei ole koostööd kellegagi. Probleeme „lahendatakse“ ametiühingute poolt blokaadide, protestide ja valitsuste poolt seadusandluse, avaliku sektori kärpimise ja üha enam ka märulipolitseiga. Lahendusele jõutakse tihti siis, kui hirmutatakse ära kas valitsus või ametiühingud. Selge vahe on Põhjamaades valitseva pragmatismi ja võit-võit filosoofia ning Lõuna-Euroopas valitseva võit-kaotus filosoofia vahel. Kahtlustan, et siin võib mingi seos olla sellega, kas vasakpoolseteks on poliitilisel maastikul sotsiaaldemokraadid või sotsialistid (või suisa kommunistid). Kerget ülevaadet saab sotsiaaldemokraatia ja sotsialismi erinevuste kohta nt siit. […]

  • Deshy

    Can you please tell me how a society that tries to promote “everybody to be a proprietor” operate? When everybody’s a proprietor, there will not be a working class, which brings up the question as to how a business would run without the workforce. Please explain this.

    • Coronare Modestus Faust

      I don’t know the answer to your question, as I did not propose that “a business would run without the workforce.” You may be referring to this statement: “One wishes that there should be none but proletariats; the other wishes that there should be no more proletariats.” Remember that these are short little sentences meant to be easily recalled and to capture board concepts; in that regard, they stand more as metaphors. So, this quote is not to say that there should be no “working class,” per se. It is to say that the goal is a society where worker/laborers… all laborers/managers/staff/participants… in an enterprise should be a stakeholder in the success of the endeavor aside from simply collecting a wage (whether hourly or salaried). It is to say that the profits should be shared with those who helped to create the profits — not that all the profits should be evenly distributed, as the goal here is equity not equality. The business owner, the provider of capital, the shareholders may all receive the majority of returns, but all participants in the endeavor should be rewarded with a share or “stake” in the success beyond collecting a simple wage. In this regard, it is the end of the “proletariat” as simple wage earner and the ascension of “stakeholders.” In this world, there are analogously “no more proletariats.”

      • poorlando

        If workers want a portion of a company’s revenue beyond their agreed upon wages, they can obtain it the way all other owners of equity have: they can buy shares of the company.

        • Coronare Modestus Faust

          Agreed. However, the point as regards a social-capitalist/social-democracy environment is that firms should be incented to provide a revenue sharing scheme with workers so that incomes are re-coupled to productivity gains and market success, as well as making input of workers a normal part of the overall supervisory/governance structure of a firm through worker councils and/or worker representation at the Supervisory Board/Governance Board levels. This does not mean, and I would not support, that these components would evenly distribute business profits nor would these components mean that workers could override management and/or Boards, just that they would be a part of the decision-making process and share in the success or lack thereof. This arrangement is a vital part of Germany’s business structure, and it works very well even as most of their economy is export oriented. The vast majority of European and Japanese firms offer similar successful arrangements. So we empirically know the arrangements and structure are not detrimental to the ability of an economy or industry or individual firm to thrive. Thanks for your comment, with which I actually agree… in terms of share ownership.

  • Denis

    I could not agree with you more, I think 99% of Americans do not understand the difference between Socialism and a Social Democracy and it is a major problem. The media and most politicians just repeat the same old lies and do not teach anyone anything useful.

    • Mitchina

      I’ve read that same argument before somewhere. The issues isn’t whether they know the difference between them, it’s that even politics doesn’t know what they are other than out for themselves. The progressives have been changing the meanings of these labels and using every benefit of any characteristics from any form of gvt to obtain their objective. Libertarians USED to be right of conservatives, then the progressives snatched the word Liberal as their own, infiltrated the Democratic Party and now they are all progressives to some point or made up from some Frankenstein movement all coming from the hard left. And conservatives are further left than ever before… that is if you’re not using the distorted meanings of these groups. So it isn’t the American People to blame being ignorant, the politicians have designed it this way to skew the lines so that they (gvt) always win and get what they want.

      • Coronare Modestus Faust

        Wow. I mean, really, wow. So, everything in US politics is left leaning? Your distortion field is immense. You don’t seem like you’re from around these parts; seems you’re projecting some experience from another land onto the US. But thanks for writing, I think.

  • fliqside

    I think your bias (naturally) shows in a lot (but not all) of your comparisons between socialism and social democracy. What you describe here as socialism is the imperfect manifestation of socialism as we see in Cuba, for example. It seems to me that you are comparing the manifestation of socialism in places like Cuba vs. the manifestation of social democracy in places like Sweden — an unfair comparison in my opinion. Cuba was a very underdeveloped country when socialism was instilled and Sweden was already quite developed (relatively speaking) and organized when social democracy became more prominent there. Same goes for Russia with communism (Russia was a very underdeveloped feudal country when communism came about). I bet you that if you implement socialism in Sweden right now, it would look much better than you described in your article (especially concerning the despotic nature of the state as you describe). Just as democracy works much better in developed countries than it does in developing countries (at least in terms of government corruption and the effectiveness of the state). The reason socialism would be much better in a developed county like Sweden is because there would be more resources to go around and much more advanced technology to reproduce resources. Well implemented socialism is really only possible in either very small communities (as was the case — and still is — in small tribes) or large civilizations with advanced technology that can produce enough food and other basic necessities on a scale where sharing them equally among all is not only possible but also can be done comfortably. When implementing socialism well does become possible, I believe it is a better system than social democracy (socialism is inherently democratic), mostly because it promises greater equality, cooperation, and true liberty. Greater equality because not having private property means that everyone owns everything that belongs to the society divided by the number of people. Cooperation because private property naturally produces competition and all the negatives that go with it such as discrimination, jealousy, greed, etc. Greater liberty because people will no longer be tied to wage-labour (as there is no need to sustain private property) and will therefore, no longer be alientated from their labor.

  • Paulo

    Very well explained, I’m European and grew up in the middle of all of the definitions and experiences but as many things in life it’s quite difficult to explain them to other people that have not had the same experience. I will this article as a help to explain it to other people.
    I just have to point out a few points to the more careless or less informed readers.
    What is pointed on the article is more of less a correct differentiation of the systems, however this should not be mixed with the identification of left and right in the European political spectrum. A true (in the sense of what is explained here) Social Democratic party or manifest would be seen, in the EU, as Radical Left. A true (in the sense of what is explained here) Socialist party would be only comparable to Stalinism.
    Social Democracy was seen as a tool to control the Communist and Socialist pressure from the former USSR. With the end of the USSR it migrated to the right to a Conservative Liberalism that again is evolving even more to the right to Neoliberalism.
    Not all is lost, most of the left is waiting to see what is going to come of Greece where the “Radical Left” party SYRIZA might take power soon, however their program and manifesto are pure Social Democracy.

  • Nathan

    The first comparison is accurate. From there, it went extremely downhill. Even a Socialist that studied socialist theory for only one month could easily refute these bias claims. For example,

    “one is restrictive, the other is authoritarian.”

    If you really believe in democracy, I assume that you should agree that there is nothing authoritarian about the expansion of democracy. That’s all socialism is: expanding democracy into the economic realm so that the workforce has control over production. Production would be controlled democratically by the workers, rather than by an autocracy or an oligarchy like in the current capitalist system; I find it interesting how an individual having full control over others in a country is called a dictatorship, but an individual having full control over others in a company is called a free market. Society just needs to learn how to organize properly and learn how to properly deal with external threats and pressures.

    Sorry if I sound rude. It’s just that if you wish to explain Socialism to America, it would be nice if you would do so accurately and without bias. Or at least without obvious bias.

  • Jourdan Pouliot

    Wait wait wait wait wait wait… hold on a sec. I was under the impression that Social Democracy is distinguishable as a universal welfare state in a capitalist framework. How is that libertarian? I know plenty of libertarians that view welfare as “theft.” The former advocates expansion of the power of the state (in matters of welfare and collective bargaining). The other

    • Jourdan Pouliot

      advocates diminishing government power to be replaced by private owners’ power only.

    • Coronare Modestus Faust

      Hello, Jourdan. Thanks for your response. I do not disagree with you. I’m speaking of libertarian with a small ‘l” and not the capital”L.” There is difference, and I did not do a good job distinguishing it in my piece. Here’s what I responded to another reader who made the same observation as you: Submitted on 2012/08/16 at 8:07 am | In reply to CatholicLeftwinger…

      “You are absolutely technically correct, and I agree with your supposition about ‘Libertarianism.’ Unfortunately, ‘libertarian’ has become a charged word as well as ‘socialism.’ I am diametrically opposed to Libertarianism. My reference is to ‘other’ root meaning of libertarian: ‘a doctrine advocating civil liberty and free thought.’ The philosophy of Libertarianism (channeling Ayn Rand) has tainted the ‘other’ references underlying the term which relate to liberty. For me, the small ‘l’ libertarian refers to an understanding of the absurdity of ‘consensual crimes’ that harm no persons not consenting and the primacy of freedom of thought and dissent. If you will note, I refer to ‘Libertarianism’ in the opening remarks. Certainly, though, the distinction could have been more clearly made on my end. Thanks for visiting, and thanks for your insights.”

      Anyway, thanks, Jourdan, for writing and reading : )

  • Alex

    You just about plagiarized verbatim the end of Benjamin Tucker’s “State Socialism and Anarchism”

    • Coronare Modestus Faust

      I appreciate that you are familiar with Tucker, but I very specifically stated the actual source from which my revamped version was appropriated: “Ernest Lesigne – Liberty V, 10 (December 17, 1887), No. 114, p. 5.” So, not to put too fine a point on it, but one is not plagiarizing when one specifically cites the location for their source material and provides attribution. Next.

  • Alexander

    I am a socialist living in Sweden, I regard myself as a classical marxist. I’m firmly against social democracy.

    One reason is that social democracy is fundamentally statist. It comes from the lineage of Ferdinand Lassalle, a german politician who strove to merge the aspirations of the working class movement with that of Bismarck’s preussian state.

    In the early days of the german social democratic party (the SPD) there was much conflict between the followers of Lassalle and the followers of Marx. The Lassalleans did saw the state as unproblematic, they didn’t really recognice any differences between state and civil society. They regarded everything outside of private life as matters of the state and could not imagine civil life without state directives, permissions and prohibitions and police surveillance.

    The marxists firmly opposed this view. But Lassalleanism rose to dominate the german SPD and also other parties like the swedish SAP.
    Swedish social democracy has always identified itself with the state. The state appears to them as essentially social democratic, though it temporary falls into the hands of the evil conservatives. It has never understood why the people need to protect itself from the state. It has always opposed constitutional rights (we formally have some, but they don’t have constitutional protection and can be abolished over night by simple majority) and constitutional courts for example. As I’ve said, they think that the state is fundamentally good. Pretty much the same thing as “the people”, or “society”.

    Swedish social democracy traditionally believes that every social problem is best solved by the state authorities, perhaps in cooperation with big business and trade union leadership.

    It is also deeply patriarchal with personality cults around its”strong men”: Hjalmar Branting, Per-Albin Hansson, Tage Erlanders, Olof Palme… It is a very centralised and bureaucratic party where the grass roots have systematically been marginalised.

    It has promoted a strict corporativist policy where every big decisions is made in negotiations between business, party, state and union elites. “The Swedish Model” was an agreement were the trade unions promomised to promote rationalisations and keep workers hard-working, subservient and disciplined in return for steadily increasing wages and pretty strong social security. This went hand with a strong tendency for economical centralisation. Social Democracy promoted monopolies and large-scale production and saw smale scale business and markets as antiquated and reactionary.

    Also, the SAP supported the nazis during WW2 and put antifascists in concentration camps.

    Classical marxism is a much more libertarian ideology. It is not dogmatically hostile to every possible aspect of the state, like anarchism is. But it is deeply sceptical to it. It does not promote a fully state run economy. Instead it believes in building bottom-up democratic institutions, including democratic work places were each worker has one vote. Social democracy has aways opposed this. It is fine with capitalist ownership and with state ownership but not with democratic ownership.

    Social democracy is actually quite close to stalinism. It shares many attributes. Statism, centralism, large-scale production, cult of personality etc. They are definitly closer to each other than either of them is to classical marxism.

  • Unfinder

    Came here looking for answers, only found emotional, subjective rubbish. “One is destructive, the other is constructive”. “One is dogmatic, the other one scientific.” You’re obviously a brainwashed drone who has nothing to say and just likes to write things. To clarify I’m not a socialist, neither a social democrat. Your article isn’t science, it’s 8th grader-tier fan fiction.

    • Coronare Modestus Faust

      Sorry I did not provide the answer(s) for which you were looking. However, in my defense (and any writer’s defense), on difficult and substantive matters, the type of answers you seek cannot be found in something as short as what was provided. That was not the piece’s intention. It was meant as a brief and cursory summary, a back of hand comparison and contrast. But most importantly, as with any brief such as this, it was meant to raise more questions than it answered: to stimulate one to think, to start a conversation, to instigate one to seek out more…to provide the talking points or highlights that would focus the reader’s own further exploration. You could well imagine some political person giving it as a lyrical speech at a convention of cheering party members or steps of a municipal building with protestors and supporters bearing signs. Because in fact that was its original purpose when written in 1887. Yes, if one read’s to the bottom, I have noted that, while I updated a couple words for contemporary clarity, it is “[b]ased upon the writing of ~ Ernest Lesigne – Liberty V, 10 (December 17, 1887), No. 114, p. 5.” I am not even the principal author. Your discontent is with a man who died a century ago, a journalist who wrote socialistic letters for the French radical paper “Le Radical.” If you really want more, after the article, there are a series of subject lines listed under which I classified this brief article, and I would suggest you click on “economics,” as you would then see a very large number of articles I wrote in-depth which create the rounded picture for which you may be searching. No one article will do it, but a series of the pieces might. In my “about” portion, I describe that I am a Business-Economist (I am an economist in support of business and capital ownership; hence why I am a social capitalist–I believe, however, that capitalism on its own is destructive, self-destructive, and inherently, viscously unfair and so support efforts to include stakeholders in the benefits and rewards of the very enterprises they instrumentally help grow to success, and I support regulations to provide guide-rails to ensure the enterprises also serve and benefit the greater society while seeking to curb harms that are considered “externalities” to the enterprises). As such, I am of the verbosity and depth of thought that you might find more appealing. Even in my descriptive, “About” segment, I offer a bit more insight into what you are looking for. Thanks for coming by. Sorry this particular piece didn’t provide what you wanted, but I appreciate that you took time to write me of your disappointment.

  • Brian T.

    I just stumbled upon this site after looking up for a good and succinct way to explain the differences and nuances between socialism and social democracy. I’ve grown tried of trying to hammer these differences to people I talk to. I’m going to point them to this site to save my sanity 🙂

    Americans are very black and white. Robert Putnam, in “American Grace” attributes this to our political culture that is deeply rooted in religious morality that casts our beliefs as just and looks to justify those beliefs by casting opposition as evil or bad. Think of how our leaders, leading up to wars, cast the opposition as evil. There’s also a touch of Tocqueville’s claim that we are adamantly anti-intellectual in the US since that was a hallmark of Europe’s political and class systems. It’s not as bad today, but when I was young in the early 90s, being smart was equitable to being a nerd, socially awkward, weak, un-manly, uncool/unpopular, etc.

    I really think this country is going down the toilet, fast, and that we desperately need to implement social democratic policies in order to tackle our growing and destructive wealth inequality (I believe this is one of the most destructive things for a society); to address massive financial insecurity (most people couldn’t weather prolonged lost work time due to injury or illness); provide the higher education vital to compete in an evolving global economy that is phasing out and displacing low skilled labor; provide a streamlined single payer health care system that focuses on preventative medicine (not the treatment model that is too late and favors big pharma and insurance co.); policies that promote families by creating a healthier life/work balance (mandatory paid vacations for all workers, mandatory paid maternal AND paternal paid leave with a guarantee your job will be there) after all healthier and happier employees are much more productive and the benefits ripple through out society; and many other reasons.

    There’s saying that today’s economy is not your grandfather’s. In the past, a low skilled, blue collar worker could provide a middle class life for a family of four, own a house; all with one parent working. Today, you almost have to have both parents working, and even then, at least one parent needs to have a higher paying skilled job in order to achieve that middle class lifestyle with their own house. I make about 54k a year currently (hopefully that changes soon since I recently graduated from the U of MN with my BA – I’m a late bloomer at 38 😦 but I did it-) have a family of four, own a very modest condo, but my wife has many health issues that prevents her from work, and let me tell you it’s a weekly… daily struggle to make ends meet. There are millions in a situation like me, and social democratic policies would benefit us greatly, but more importantly, that help would ripple out and benefit society as a whole.

    I was a staunch right libertarian before college. But my eyes were opened once I got away from my bubble in a small south east Minnesota city. Education and knowledge are key to awakening my fellow Americans to how much our country, our communities, would benefit and prosper from social Democratic policies.

    One final mention, I highly recommend the book “Crime and the American Dream” by Messner and Rosenfeld. This book was pivotal in really making me stop opposing social democratic policies and shed my previous and wrong headed right libertarian views.

  • Big Ed

    That’s the pity of socialism and socialist terms, isn’t it? Every person you talk to has a different definition. This obscuring of language has been done deliberately, over the course of 120 years. From my estimation the chart goes like this:

    FAR LEFT TO RIGHT Anarchism>Anarcho-Syndicalism>Communalism>Left Communism>Communism>Socialism>Democratic Socialism> Social Democracy>Social Oriented Market Economy> Liberalism> Neo-Liberalism.

    It would seem to me that we would be devising new methods, new structures and systems through syncretism, taking the best and discarding the rest, and not relying on frameworks from the 19th century. How about Libertarian Communism?

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