social democracy


Definition of social democracy

1 : a political movement advocating a gradual and peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism by democratic means
2 : a democratic welfare state that incorporates both capitalist and socialist practices

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Other Words from social democracy

social democrat noun
social democratic adjective

Socialism vs. Social Democracy: Usage Guide

In the many years since socialism entered English around 1830, it has acquired several different meanings. It refers to a system of social organization in which private property and the distribution of income are subject to social control, but the conception of that control has varied, and the term has been interpreted in widely diverging ways, ranging from statist to libertarian, from Marxist to liberal. In the modern era, "pure" socialism has been seen only rarely and usually briefly in a few Communist regimes. Far more common are systems of social democracy, now often referred to as democratic socialism, in which extensive state regulation, with limited state ownership, has been employed by democratically elected governments (as in Sweden and Denmark) in the belief that it produces a fair distribution of income without impairing economic growth.

Examples of social democracy in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The plan would impose a more restrictive and generous government-run health care system on the U.S. than exists in European social democracies. Rich Lowry, National Review, "The Bernie Path Works Only for Bernie," 31 Jan. 2020 What this really means is that EU politicians are aware that a freer economy more open to commerce at home and trade outside the EU would deliver more prosperity to more people than continental social democracy. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Britain’s Independence Day," 29 Jan. 2020 Macron believes that social democracy is no longer a threat to his rule. Sylvain Cypel, The New York Review of Books, "Why Macron Refuses to Retire in France’s Pensions Battle," 17 Jan. 2020 Is the only plausible way to avert a climate breakdown a full transformation of our society from corporate to social democracy? David Grinspoon, Washington Post, "An audacious plan to stop climate change: Remake the entire economy," 18 Oct. 2019 Since, under social democracy, true power continues to reside with the capitalists, its commitment to egalitarianism is necessarily fragile. The Economist, "What would millennial socialists do with power?," 28 Nov. 2019 Among those repealing their wealth tax are the Scandinavian social democracies that Warren admires, Denmark, Finland, and Sweden. Michael Tanner, National Review, "Elizabeth Warren’s Untenable Plans," 30 Oct. 2019 Spending the day in Denmark after C40, enjoying this social democracy that treats healthcare & education as rights, zero-carbon as priority, & infrastructure as a key public good. Jack Crowe, National Review, "A Democrat, and Social Conservative, Challenges Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez," 17 Oct. 2019 At the other end is social democracy, which is common in Europe. Maggie Astor, New York Times, "What Is Democratic Socialism? Whose Version Are We Talking About?," 12 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'social democracy.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of social democracy

1848, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for social democracy

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The first known use of social democracy was in 1848

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Statistics for social democracy

Last Updated

17 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Social democracy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Mar. 2020.

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More Definitions for social democracy

social democracy


English Language Learners Definition of social democracy

: a political movement that uses principles of democracy to change a capitalist country to a socialist one
: a country that uses both capitalist and socialist practices

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