What is Democratic Socialism?

What is Democratic Socialism?

Essay on Democratic Socialism

Democratic socialism refers to democratically elected leaders' call to use the public office to promote equality. It is a combination of the liberal democratic nation's perspectives on social ownership and the economy's management. According to Busky (2000), democratic socialism is a socialist wing that integrates the beliefs of a socially owned economy with political democracy. It is characterized by the public's ability to access the property via a democratically elected government, regulation of the economy, and a limit on private property accumulation. Democratic socialists acknowledge that everyone should be allowed to achieve equal economic success. An analysis of democratic socialism will be vital.

Democratic socialism dates back to the 19th century when the socialist thinkers and the British Chassis system differed in their objectives. However, they acknowledged the benefits of democratic unity and public ownership as society's positive attributes. It entails all forms of market, libertarian, reformist, revolutionary, ethical, and social socialism (Busky, 2000). Socialism creates a balanced strategy for liberty and equality compared to communism and liberal capitalism. Based on Li (2015), democratic socialism also eliminates the trade-off between the two objectives under communism and liberal capitalism. Hence, democratic socialists promote the idea that society and economy should be governed democratically to fulfill public needs.

Bernie Sanders, at George Washington University, delivered a speech on the vision of democratic socialism. According to Sanders, democratic socialism is a representation of justice, compassion, and love. Moreover, he identified it as a "political revolution" that allows individuals to benefit from economic and political rights denied by the presence of capitalism (Li, 2015). On the other hand, Eduard Bernstein was a revisionist who gave rise to the reformist theory, which affirms that socialism can be attained via the capitalist system's peaceful reforms. Unlike Karl Marx, Eduard Bernstein believed that socialism would be achieved without eliminating capitalism. Hence, despite the presence of capitalism in the majority of nations, democratic socialism will promote equal distribution of resources.

Presently the majority of individuals in the United States advocate for democratic socialism. As highlighted by Corfe (2000), the various perspectives on democratic socialism were triggered by the 2008 financial crisis. It consisted of a decline in social mobility, increased income inequality, and geographic divides among young individuals. During the beginning of the 21st century, socialism in the American context was erased from popular understanding and awareness. This is due to aspects such as racial discrimination, party realignments, repression, and anti-communism. Hence the reinvention of democratic socialism symbolizes an uncertain future and past that needs to be renewed.

Arguments against Democratic Socialism

Over the years, democratic socialism has attracted criticism from scholars, leaders, and citizens. Democracy is considered a fundamental precondition in socialism's success in the 21st century (Adler, 2019). However, in the 2019 State of the Union address, President Trump highlighted that America would not be a socialist nation. In this case, the disputes against democratic socialism focus on the incompatibility between socialism and political freedom. For instance, Milton Friedman stated that it is risky to direct economic power in the State's control. State ownership of the economy inevitably results in political tyranny.

Next, the majority of philosophers believe that socialism's objective to achieve economic equality is unfounded. This is because economic inequalities are not objective parameters in advocating for economic progress. According to Poulantzas (200), capitalism offers the population with decent standards of living. The objective is to ensure that everyone has enough to meet their needs and requirements. Finally, scholars have argued that economic democracy is desirable. This is because political or economic democracy is dangerous, especially when dictated by uninformed individuals'. For instance, Marx believed that if the working class is not involved in the socialist movement, democratic socialism will not be successful (Hook, 2009). Based on the division of resources in a country, the responsibility of controlling the economy should be guided by experts. 

Arguments that support Democratic Socialism

The speech delivered at George Washington University by Berne Sanders affirmed the reasons he referred to himself as a democratic socialist. Berne Sanders has been vocal about his views that the absence of economic freedom in political freedom is not real freedom (Sunkara, 2019). Democratic socialism was defined as the foundation for social and economic rights. Consequently, socialism is more democratic than capitalism since it allows ordinary people to be involved in economic decision making. Second, democratic socialism reduces the income inequalities evident in most capitalist nations such as the United States (Cockshott & Zachariah, 2012). In Spain, the Mondragon organization managed and owned by the workers has a 5:1 ratio between the highest and lowest paid employees. Thus, democratic socialism eliminates economic gaps in the country.

Next, socialism is an effective way to utilize the collective wealth to address everyone's necessities. The fundamental requirements such as healthcare, food, shelter, retirement benefits, and education will be available for all citizens regardless of their ability to pay. Finally, the economic system under democratic socialism removes the wealth inequalities in countries that have embraced capitalism. In the majority of capitalist nations, the economy is controlled by the elite. Nonetheless, with socialism, the means of production will be democratized. Consequently, socialists are advocating for an economy where citizens are included in decision making.

In conclusion, democratic socialism is a concept that will change the dynamics of the current system in the majority of nations. Presently, few countries have embraced democratic socialism despite its success in the attainment of economic equality. The arguments for and against democratic socialism provide different perspectives for philosophers who support or contradict democratic socialism.


Adler, P. S. (2019). The 99 percent economy: How democratic socialism can overcome the crises of capitalism. Oxford University Press.

Busky, D. F. (2000). Democratic socialism: A global survey. Greenwood Publishing Group.

Cockshott, P., & Zachariah, D. (2012). Arguments for socialism. Lulu. com.

Corfe, R. (2000). Reinventing Democratic Socialism: For People Prosperity. Arena books.

Li H. (2015) Democratic Socialism. In: Political Thought and China’s Transformation. Politics and Development of Contemporary China. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137427816_5

Hook, S. (2009). Reason, social myths and democracy. Cosimo, Inc..

Poulantzas, N. A. (2000). State, power, socialism (Vol. 29). Verso.

Sunkara, B. (2019). Bernie Sanders just made a brilliant defense of democratic socialism | Bhaskar Sunkara. Retrieved 28 August 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jun/13/bernie-sanders-socialism-old-school-american-liberalism

Published on: 5 Sep 2020

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