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 A year ago, at the tail end of a bitter, interminable primary season, many to the left of Joe Biden were involved in a long-running dispute over which candidate was best positioned to bring social democracy to the White House. Blair Mcclendon, The New Republic, "The Presidency Is a Bad Job," 19 Jan. 2021 The gentlest entry point is basic social democracy, right? The Politics Of Everything, The New Republic, "Transcript: The Future of Telecommuting," 13 Jan. 2021 Yet visions of a nation of autonomous strivers always coexisted with older ideals of community and solidarity—and those ideals resurfaced in the Great Depression to become the basis, however limited and imperfect, of midcentury social democracy. Jackson Lears, The New York Review of Books, "Orthodoxy of the Elites," 5 Jan. 2021 Surprisingly, Nelson credits the American Progressive movement of the early twentieth century with helping to propel the rise of social democracy in Scandinavia. Win Mccormack, The New Republic, "Getting to Denmark," 30 Dec. 2020 With global property holdings and the international trading system in ruins, all Western European states constructed comprehensive national economies: national capital combined with national labor steered by national social democracy. Rana Dasgupta, Harper's Magazine, "The Silenced Majority," 24 Nov. 2020 If the last half century’s struggles over the economy have taught us anything, it’s that the provision of comforts will always be contested; social democracy will always need defending. Corey Robin, The New Yorker, "The Professor and the Politician," 12 Nov. 2020 But neither are the Democrats or the Republicans the ideal organizational vessels for social democracy or free-market fusionism, respectively. Kevin Mahnken, The New Republic, "The Libertarian Moment That Never Comes," 2 Nov. 2020 In a cycle of reactivity, ordinary people turn not to social democracy—now at its weakest point since World War II—but to the vicarious and counterfeit satisfactions of extreme nationalism. Robert Kuttner, The New York Review of Books, "Can We Fix Capitalism?," 8 Sep. 2020

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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Last Updated

3 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Social democracy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Apr. 2021.

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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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