social democracy


plural social democracies
: a democratic welfare state (see welfare state sense 1) that incorporates both capitalist and socialist practices
American politicians dismiss the Scandinavian model as creeping socialism, communism lite. … In truth, social democracies are successful precisely because they foment dynamic capitalist economies that just happen to benefit every tier of society.Wade Davis
For in Europe, one finds that virtually all political parties embrace social democracy. This is true even for many conservative governments—not just in Scandinavia, but also in France and Germany—which have embraced the originally German idea of a social market economy in which free market excesses are tempered with support for those who are falling through the cracks.Klaus F. Zimmermann
social democrat noun
plural social democrats
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 social democracies, such as Sweden and Denmark, democratically elected governments that employ some socialist practices but within a capitalist framework in the belief that extensive state regulation paired with limited state ownership produces a fair distribution of income without impairing economic growth. While social democracy has in the past been used synonymously with democratic socialism, referring to a movement seeking to achieve and perpetuate economic socialism through politically democratic means, the two terms are no longer considered interchangeable.

Examples of social democracy in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web But in its essential aspects, social democracy is the name of his desire. Michael Kazin, The New Republic, 8 Sep. 2023 This is a real threat to 250 years of law and social democracy. Tracy Brown, Los Angeles Times, 27 July 2023 Looking forward, Edwards suggests that Chile may yet find a more sustainable middle road as a European-style social democracy, with less spectacular economic growth but greater social cohesion. Sebastian Edwards, Foreign Affairs, 28 Feb. 2023 Boric’s ambitious goal is to introduce a European-style social democracy that would expand economic and political rights to attack nagging inequality without veering toward the authoritarianism embraced by so much of the left in Latin America, from Cuba to Venezuela. Patricia Luna, Joshua Goodman, Anchorage Daily News, 20 Dec. 2021 Market democracy or social democracy? Ian Beacock, The New Republic, 22 Feb. 2022 The 12 men who founded the party were fascinated by the new, poorly understood ideology of Marxism, which contended for influence with liberalism, social democracy, anarchism, fascism and other isms that claimed to show how to restore China’s greatness. Andrew Nathan, WSJ, 25 June 2021 Bernie Sanders has reinvigorated Americans’ interest in social democracy. Daniel Bessner, The New Republic, 6 Mar. 2023 But of the two, only Sanders, with his appeals to universal values, patriotic social democracy, and cross-racial solidarity, has any appeal to the liberals and left-wingers likely to read Oluo’s book. Park MacDougald, Washington Examiner, 10 Dec. 2020 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'social democracy.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1947, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of social democracy was in 1947

Dictionary Entries Near social democracy

Cite this Entry

“Social democracy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Sep. 2023.

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