Difference Between Socialism and Communism

Socialism and communism are sometimes used interchangeably in some settings, and thus are oftentimes confused. Here are the differences between socialism and communism.

Socialism started making its rounds near the end of the second world war, making it an older concept than communism. The focus of socialism is an equality-based society – every individual has equal rights and living conditions. Political and economic decisions revolve around the citizenry, ensuring that the collective population as a whole gains equal advantage or effect from every implementation. Socialism renounces individual existence and believes that every person should act with the others to face social concerns. In effect, properties and common means of production should belong to the society, managed by the government who acts as a representative of the entirety. Socialism also believes in redistribution of wealth and power to achieve the purpose of equality.

Communism is rooted into the concepts surrounding critique of capitalism as well as the marketplace. Communism criticizes the capitalism theory – the idea in a capitalist environment is that the highest socio-economic elite of a society (which take up only a minority) has considerable advantage over the majority, or the lower classes. The communist theory aims to oppose this, envisioning a society where the socioeconomic status of all individuals are equal. While socialism carries this same vision, communism is considered a more extreme form. In communism, one can achieve equality by renouncing personal possessions and working with others. No individual owns property or means of production – everything belongs to everyone and is simply regulated by the government. In fact, in a perfect setting of communism, government is no longer required and all individuals simply exist and work together to survive. A distinct characteristic of communism is that goods and services are only produced to suit the needs of the population. Nothing is made in excess. Additionally, goods and services are distributed equally and are not based on the amount of work achieved by an individual. Meanwhile, socialism allows such items to be distributed based on a person’s contribution to the production.

A clear distinction between socialism and communism is the means of achieving their purpose. The original communist theory claims that communism can be achieved if the working class rise up against the middle and upper classes in order to take down capitalism. On the other hand, socialism can be attained through a pre-established electoral process, electing socialist parties to take charge of leadership in the government.

Comparison Board

Definition A political/economic theory that promotes equality and advocates ownership and regulation as something collectively owned by a society or community as a whole A political theory that advocates a classless society with socioeconomic equality, opposing the capitalist structure in that each property is publicly owned and goods equally distributed according to need
Political System Can operate with different political systems, most advocate for democracy in different forms Ideally stateless, classless; direct government of the people
Relevant Proponents Charles Hall, Robert Owen, Charles Fourier, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and many others Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Rosa Luxemburg,Vladimir Lenin, Ho Chi Minh, Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro, and many others
Economy Planned socialism -Key planning on investment and production; may be centralized or decentralized

Market socialism – allocated capital is based on markets

Economic planning based on physical units rather than monetary units; coordinates all key economic decisions
Religion Majorly secular but promotes freedom to choose religion Promotes atheism
Free Choice Free choice in faith, marriage or career decisions; production decisions made by the state Collective votes or state ruling decide economic and political decisions
Private Property Personal properties owned by individuals while public property like production facilities are State-owned, with worker control No concept of property, only “usership”
Distribution of Goods According to the contribution to production Based on need, regardless of contribution
Ideal Method of Change Electoral methods Rising up, protests (ideally)
Variations Market socialism, state socialism, communism, social anarchism European communism, Juche communism, Marxism, Pre-Marxist communism, Primitive communism, Left Anarchism, and many more


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2 thoughts on “Difference Between Socialism and Communism”

  1. “Socialism started making its rounds near the end of the second world war, making it an older concept than communism.”

    I must respectfully disagree with the time of the rise of socialism, given that the foundational treatise of both economic theories are found in Das Kapital (Marx), which was published in 1867.


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