You've probably heard of socialism, but do you know what it is? The term socialism refers to any system in which the production and distribution of goods and services is the shared responsibility of a group of people. Still confused? Get a clear definition of socialism, along with socialism examples and features.
Socialism can be hard to understand. However, a simple socialism definition would be where a government or group provides everything to the people or workers. You can think of this as everything being owned by the public. It's also called common ownership. So, the government, rather than corporations, regulates everything from your wage to healthcare. The theory of socialism was developed by Karl Marx. To get a better idea of socialism, it can be helpful to look at some of the elements.
When it comes to socialism examples, there are a few defining characteristics you notice in socialism.
- no competition - encourage cooperation rather than competition within the government
- egalitarian society - create a commitment to social equality for all people
- public ownership - lack of private ownership and common control within the government system (socialist systems typically government-run)
- cover basic needs - government provides basic needs like healthcare and education
- states regulate price control - lack a stock market; the government controls prices
Socialism exists within countries as an overall economic system or within factions of corporations, healthcare and public education. Check out a few examples of declared socialist countries along with countries with socialist economic systems.
Countries aren't defined as socialist if they haven't declared themselves as such in a constitution or through their national name. Therefore, throughout history, socialism may have been practiced in many countries, but the country itself has not been labeled as socialist. However, a few countries to declare themselves socialists include:
- Republic of India
- United Republic of Tanzania
- Republic of Angola
- Portuguese Republic
- People's Republic of Bangladesh
- Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
- Cooperative Republic of Guyana
- People's Republic of Mozambique
While some countries declare themselves socialist, others include socialism in some parts of their country. View socialism within a country's economic systems, healthcare, education, corporations, or other factions in these examples.
- The Mondragon Corporation, a federation of co-ops that currently employs 85,066 people, is in the Basque region. The workers control the production and the money made from the production.
- The former Soviet Union is an example of a socialist system. They transitioned from a capitalist to a socialist government until 1991.
- Cuba has a communist political system but is defined as a Marxist-Leninist socialist state. Its economy is state-run, and it lacks a stock exchange. Healthcare and education are all completely managed and administered by the government.
- The country of North Korea is a socialist state lacking a stock exchange, supporting many social programs and having a state-run economy.
- China has elements of socialism that remain despite having eliminated socialized healthcare. The economy is still state-run.
- Laos has many ties with other socialist states and runs the majority of the economy.
- Sweden's healthcare is government-funded. Education in Sweden is also part of a socialist policy, which provides government-funded and administered education at all levels to citizens.
- Zambia's healthcare is universal and, therefore, an example of socialism.
- Turkmenistan is a strong example of socialism with energy subsidized by the government, many housing subsidies and an economy that is largely state-run.
Many people use the term socialism to describe behavior in which a government takes on a larger role in the economy. For example, many opponents claim that former President Barack Obama, of the United States of America, is a socialist due to his push for government-run healthcare.
In Karl Marx's system, socialism was supposed to be a type of utopian system where everyone is treated equally. However, critics of socialism note that it takes away many freedoms afforded in a capitalist society. Additionally, it places much of the power in the government since everything from wages to healthcare to food is under their control. This can quickly escalate to an authoritarian regime if the power is placed in a single dictator.
The term socialism is not always used accurately. It is beneficial for people to have some actual socialism examples to get a clear picture of this economic theory. Now that you have a basic understanding of socialism, dive into communism examples. Then, explore the main differences between fascism, communism and socialism.