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 These 10 books about a Swedish detective, set in the ’60s and ’70s and deeply concerned with social democracy, are my top recommendation — now and for all time. Paula L. Woods, Los Angeles Times, "Three essential Nordic crime series from Wendy Lesser’s ‘Scandinavian Noir’," 1 May 2020 The recognition that society is an organic whole in which all sorts of people do indispensable things, many of which go under-rewarded by market economies, has long been the basis of socialism and social democracy. John Cassidy, The New Yorker, "The Importance of Bernie Sanders and Socialism," 10 Apr. 2020 But America has not suddenly changed overnight into a compassionate social democracy. Micah L. Sifry, The New Republic, "The Vanishing Public Square," 6 Apr. 2020 And his clear implication is that social democracy can be revived by refocusing on populist economic policies, and winning back the working class. Paul Krugman, New York Times, "Thomas Piketty Turns Marx on His Head," 8 Mar. 2020 The response overseas underscores the contrast between the speedy, robust support offered by European social democracies and the more measured approach favored by free market capitalism. Scott Roxborough, The Hollywood Reporter, "How the Global Film Industry Is Working to Mitigate Mass Layoffs," 9 Apr. 2020 The Democratic field promoted sweeping pro-union platforms that were more in line with European social democracies than recent trends in American labor policy. Matt Pearce, Los Angeles Times, "Bernie Sanders ends his presidential campaign," 8 Apr. 2020 In the postwar era, societies drifted into either social democracy, which Piketty thinks is flawed but closest to his ideal society, or communism, which failed utterly. Idrees Kahloon, The New Yorker, "Thomas Piketty Goes Global," 2 Mar. 2020 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

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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The first known use of social democracy was in 1848

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Last Updated

26 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Social democracy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 May. 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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