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[soh-shuh-liz-uh m] /ˈsoʊ ʃəˌlɪz əm/
a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.
procedure or practice in accordance with this theory.
(in Marxist theory) the stage following capitalism in the transition of a society to communism, characterized by the imperfect implementation of collectivist principles.
Origin of socialism
First recorded in 1830-40; social + -ism
Related forms
presocialism, noun
semisocialism, noun
unsocialism, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for socialism
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The celebrated founder of socialism in France was his nephew.

    In the Heart of Vosges Matilda Betham-Edwards
  • Let us go straight for socialism and equal human rights and opportunities.

    Mountain Meditations L. Lind-af-Hageby
  • There will soon be no babies for you to instruct either in materialism or socialism.

    Mountain Meditations L. Lind-af-Hageby
  • This middle-class sentiment, or socialism, or whatever it may be, is rotten.

    Strife (First Series Plays) John Galsworthy
  • The experience of civilized nations has hitherto been adverse to socialism.

    The Republic Plato
British Dictionary definitions for socialism


an economic theory or system in which the means of production, distribution, and exchange are owned by the community collectively, usually through the state. It is characterized by production for use rather than profit, by equality of individual wealth, by the absence of competitive economic activity, and, usually, by government determination of investment, prices, and production levels Compare capitalism
any of various social or political theories or movements in which the common welfare is to be achieved through the establishment of a socialist economic system
(in Leninist theory) a transitional stage after the proletarian revolution in the development of a society from capitalism to communism: characterized by the distribution of income according to work rather than need
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for socialism

1837, from French socialisme (1832) or formed in English (based on socialist) from social (adj.) + -ism. Perhaps first in reference to Robert Owen's communes. "Pierre Leroux (1797-1871), idealistic social reformer and Saint-Simonian publicist, expressly claims to be the originator of the word socialisme" [Klein, also see OED discussion]. The word begins to be used in French in the modern sense c.1835.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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socialism in Culture

socialism definition

An economic system in which the production and distribution of goods are controlled substantially by the government rather than by private enterprise, and in which cooperation rather than competition guides economic activity. There are many varieties of socialism. Some socialists tolerate capitalism, as long as the government maintains the dominant influence over the economy; others insist on an abolition of private enterprise. All communists are socialists, but not all socialists are communists.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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