The Difference Between Socialism, Democratic Socialism, and Social Democracy

The terms "Socialism", "Democratic Socialism", and "Social Democracy" are terms that many people get mixed up. You might even think that these terms are interchangeable. However, these three terms are different from each other.


Socialism is a very complicated topic. There are many types of socialism, including Marxism, Maoism, Leninism, Stalinism, Islamic Socialism, and Democratic Socialism. Although there are many versions of Socialism, almost all Socialists want the government to control most of the economy. Socialists are generally opposed to capitalism and wish to abolish it.

Democratic Socialism

Democratic Socialism is a type of Socialism that advocates for government ownership of the economy, alongside democracy. Unlike many Socialists, Democratic Socialists are opposed to Marxism and the Soviet Economic Model because they are associated with authoritarianism.

One notable politician that identifies as a Democratic Socialist is Bernie Sanders. Although Sanders may call himself a Democratic Socialist, many of his proposed policies and views on political issues are not Democratic Socialism. Sanders does not want the government to control the economy. He does not want to abolish capitalism, he just wants to reform it. “Social Democrat” would describe Sanders more accurately.

Social Democracy

Social Democrats are people who want high government intervention in a capitalist economy. It might surprise you to know that Social Democrats aren’t Socialists, they are capitalists. The Nordic model is a famous example of Social Democracy. The Nordic countries spend a large amount of their money on citizens and have little market regulation. This allows the Nordic countries to thrive.

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