What is the difference between 'socialism' and 'communism'?



I frequently hear about these two different concepts. What is the fundamental difference between them?

Is there any religion in this world which had ever tried to establish social equality before ? As all the religion have powerfully and truly established the spiritual equality.


Posted 2018-10-27T05:53:13.810

Reputation: 133

1Do you mean communalism or communism? – Samuel Russell – 2018-10-27T06:20:05.923

Do you have references where you have heard these words? That may help someone provide a better answer by providing more context. Welcome to this SE! – Frank Hubeny – 2018-10-27T06:48:18.167

1Yeah it's communism @SamuelRussell – Mihir – 2018-10-27T08:59:21.313

1Well, socialism according to Marx is the intermediate step between capitalism and communism. During socialism there should be a propaganda against capital and private owndership, I guess. Communism is the result of it. – rus9384 – 2018-10-27T11:33:47.353

I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because the question is asking about a difference defined in the dictionary. – Swami Vishwananda – 2018-10-27T12:28:32.000

3@SwamiVishwananda I'm not asking about difference in the dictionary. But I'm telling you the fundamental differences as well as it can be also a political structural differences among them also – Mihir – 2018-10-27T12:46:21.723

I can't believe this question was put on hold. Marx and Engels are lamenting for their entire devotion in their Poverty Of Philosophy. – None – 2018-10-27T21:38:03.347

I have to agree with Geoff’s close reason. This is a question about social science categories or relationships. Marxism is a transfisciplinary practice and this question is a bad fit, particularly as the German beards strongly argue for social reality and armed force in filling the contents of the categories in this question. – Samuel Russell – 2018-10-28T00:34:57.853

Then all my questions and answers will be deleted. The distinction between then wide spread so-called Socialism ( as Marx and Engels criticized San Simon's and others ) and their final goal Communism is crucial to Marx's and Engel's ideas not Marxism. – None – 2018-10-28T02:29:54.253

1@SamuelRussell, if you want to agree with this question's close reason I have no problem. But I'm not agree with it. Because philosophy is not narrow minded to only philosophy of mind and other spiritual thoghts but if we think about it in depth, philosophy is always around us, it's inside our thoughts, it's around our all the activities if we deeply analyse it. so it covers all the merits and all the science as well as you said about social science. – Mihir – 2018-10-28T04:18:07.030

1I agree. The distinction between Socialism and Communism is not dictionary level but rather comparing so-called Socialism to total anarchy if you correctly read Marx. Communism is the total abolish of the division of the labor, communication through the labor, the only left thing for human beings is just a reproduction with sex. – None – 2018-10-28T07:17:11.660

@KentaroTomono, That's right. – Mihir – 2018-10-28T07:58:44.040

1@mrpanchal. Hello : the question was originally asked in obscure terms. You used a non-existent word before clarifyng that you meant 'communism'. This probably set an impression, wrongly, that the question was not substantive. It is. If you restore the question to one asking for the distinction(s) between socialism and communism, it can be reinstated. I think it is overloading the question to add a reference to capitalism. The socialism/ communism relationship is quite enough for one question. You could always ask a separate question about capitalism. Hope everyone is now satisfied. – Geoffrey Thomas – 2018-10-28T16:25:52.640

@Kentaro Tomono. Discussion can stir emotions but it doesn't help and isn't courteous to berate the OP for ignorance or to express anger. Please just let's keep the comments calm. – Geoffrey Thomas♦ 10 mins ago – – Geoffrey Thomas – 2018-10-29T08:36:45.690

Socialism is an intellectual position arrived at independently by individuals.. it is a personal set of opinions about the nature of society. Communism is a plan of action championed by a small group of people with the intention of fixing problems identified by socialism. – Richard – 2018-10-30T11:53:13.910

In what frame of reference? In the works of Marx and other marxists, in common usage, in academic sociology/economy, in anti-communist propaganda? – Luís Henrique – 2019-10-09T16:59:17.370

@LuísHenrique - I'm asking for social equality which was raised by Karl Marx on the fundamentals which are differentiated in these two terms, that's why in the end I had to ask the question regarding religion – Mihir – 2019-10-09T17:15:22.407



As Engels famously noted in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific that there are multiple approaches to what Socialism is. Some socialisms envisage an ethically appropriate ordering of human relations based on collective economic endeavour of some sort, and good associated cultures, and try to implement that plan. Others envisage the maximal development of working class power, economically and in terms of armed struggle, and that future social relations would be determined by the workers themselves (ourselves) based on their power and analysis while taking action.

Communism is normally used to refer to: utopian 19th century religious communities like kibbutz; or, an envisaged future historical process of the working class abolishing property relations; or, to the actual society of the Soviet Union after the 1940s.

In general these words don’t refer so much to specific ideologies, but are used as labels regarding organised political or economic movements in historical societies. They’re terms of social science more than ordered beliefs. And even the participants in these movements view their own ideas as methods of analysis or action rather than beliefs. The “scientific” approach of socialism as class war is more prevalent than the utopian approach of socialism as ideal ethics.

To expand on the specific difference between “socialism” and “communism” compared in the works of Marx and Engels and a number of those subsequently inspired:

For a certain interpretive tendency socialism is an intermediate or early form of workers self-governance and communism is a final or later form of workers self-governance, this time in the full abolition of work and property as social relationships.

What these constitute vary widely, often depending on support or detestation of the existence of wage labour and the state in the Soviet Union.

In contemporary revolutionary politics the call is often put for “FULL COMMUNISM NOW” such as in the pictures for sad children of Callie on the roof ( https://goo.gl/images/kNRSNQ ). Ie: of skipping the intermediate relationship of workers being their own bosses. This is from a historical perspective of workers revolutions, hopeful at best.

For this criteria, Socialism would have a direct democratic state of mandated rotating recallable delegate elected workers councils from the factory floor upwards with the sole monopoly on social violence. (Cf: workers councils in Hungary 1956 especially November 4-December 20). These councils would control goods and service distribution on flat wage bases, much like they would control production and exchange democratically with expert advice and very limited production good only markets.

Communism would lack a monopoly on power, wages, classes, and be working on eliminating required labour entirely.

  • Engels, F. Socialism: Utopian & Scientific, an extract of Anti-Duhring

Samuel Russell

Posted 2018-10-27T05:53:13.810

Reputation: 327

1But Marx's communism presupposes lack of government. Seems to be a panarchy and never was the case in the USSR. – rus9384 – 2018-10-27T11:35:17.753

1Wage labour as part of an expanded system of reproduction of retained value-form demonstrably existed in the Soviet Union, ask history.se if you need details or consult Pirani, Fitzpatrick, Andrle. And yet people suggest otherwise. Philosophy.se is not where I suggest that they're wrong as a result of empirical research. – Samuel Russell – 2018-10-27T11:41:36.053

1It is an attribute of both socialism and communism. That's not where distinction lies. – rus9384 – 2018-10-27T12:15:54.637

1Yup. It is hard to tell communism from anarchism in the end. – None – 2018-10-27T14:42:55.170

'Communalism' (early on) needs to be changed to 'communism'. Best - GT. – Geoffrey Thomas – 2018-10-28T16:36:52.257

+1. This should start a good discussion. – Geoffrey Thomas – 2018-10-28T16:47:46.000

@GeoffreyThomas the original question asked regarding communalism, suspecting the op mean communism I answered for all three – Samuel Russell – 2018-10-28T21:51:05.583

@SamuelRussell. No harm done - your answer has been well-received. I think socialism/ communism is enough for one question. Capitalism can serve as a contrast and background to both in an answer, though. Thanks for the reply. Best - Geoffrey – Geoffrey Thomas – 2018-10-29T07:49:22.147


Societies and political systems have generally evolved in proportion to the economics of human population density, in approximately the following order:

  1. Hunting/gathering, with informal division of labor and homemade weapons and tools. Natural diet. Some trading, sharing, and bartering. Tribal chiefs.
  2. Agriculture, with cultivation of crops and animal husbandry. More bartering. Homemade textiles, weaving. Monarchy and feudalism. Rise of patriarchy, and slavery.
  3. Simple capitalism, with trades, skilled cottage industries, and shop-keeping. Small villages and towns. Exclusive societies and fraternities.
  4. Industrialism, with mining, intensive exploitation of natural resources, wholesale business, manufacturing, mass-production, import/export. Shipping, railroads, air transportation. Division of labor begins to break down, along with family structure. Labor unions. Cities and metropolitan areas. Major ports.
  5. Corporatism, with banking and usury, currencies, contract law, globalization. Promotion of democracy.
  6. Socialism, with redistribution of wealth, welfare state, a powerful bureaucracy.
  7. Communism, with wealth and resources held in common. Everyone expected to pitch in with the labor. Totalitarianism.
  8. Fascism, with military industrial complex and dictatorships.
  9. Utopianism, emphasizing information technology and networking. Internet. Communication. Espionage and security services. Rise of 'professional authority' and universities. Idealism. Humanism.
  10. Anarchy, resulting from the exploitation of wars, disasters, political unrest, economic stresses, famines, disease epidemics, etc. Organized crime (including gangs and syndicates) and widespread corruption. Looting and robberies. Fraud, and general lawlessness.

I surmise that the default mode is hunting/gathering, triggered by extreme reductions of the human population, regardless of cause (including environmental or natural causes). Then as technology gradually advances with increases in population density, societies repeatedly cycle through governmental structures similar to the ones I have listed here. The higher the population density, the more difficult it becomes to keep society controlled and stable. Until finally, it breaks completely down in anarchy once again. Afterwards, it begins to regain stability again, with hunting/gathering.

It is better to compare socialism and communism relative to the whole framework of possibilities and history, rather than in isolation -- especially considering mrpanchal's original question essentially asked:

Is there [/] could [there] be [a] new ideology above Socialism and communism and capitalism [?]

And I hope that I have answered the question by outlining (to the best of my ability) the natural progression of governmental structures in relation to human population density, over time. I wouldn't say that either fascism or utopianism are necessarily "above" anything, in the sense of being any kind of real "improvement"; only that they are defensive reactions to unbearable social stresses.

While population density represents an important socio-economic parameter, its role is rarely studied in the economic literature...Too high population density decreases the natural endowment per capita...

Wikipedia, Socioeconomics

Oxford Scholarship Online, The Utopia and Radical Humanism (first chapter in a book by David Norbrook titled "Poetry and Politics in the English Renaissance", in which the author analyzes Sir Thomas More's work)

Wikipedia, "Anarchy, State, and Utopia", by Robert Nozick (1974, a book on the subject of distributive justice and libertarianism)

ResearchGate, "Socioeconomic Influences of Population Density", by Yuri Yegorov (Ph.D Economics, university of Vienna)


Posted 2018-10-27T05:53:13.810

Reputation: 2 249

5I'm sorry, but this answer is like a deeply libertarian-skewed response to the question. I don't now whether that's your issue or Wkipedia's, but it is factually incorrect, and horrendously biased. Please don't misinform people. – Ted Wrigley – 2019-10-09T14:51:06.973

I'd say that taking population density as the only variable without considering resources and marginal population (growth) over the last decades is scientifically problematic, to say the least, with a list that obviously is not based on empirical evidence but ideology. I may only have a minor in economics, but the list seems to be taken out of thin air, really, and missing any understanding of what socialism and communism are conceptually. – Philip Klöcking – 2019-10-09T16:27:38.800


Ok, first point: Socialism is a term that predates Marx. Socialism began early in the industrial revolution, as a moral reaction against the abuses inherent to of privately-owned industry of the time. The basic idea was that that we should find some social and economic system that focused on the welfare of the community as a whole: in Aristotle's sense that a community was like a ship, and that everyone aboard had to work toward a common goal and a common welfare, or the whole thing would founder and sink. The term 'Socialism' was coined as an opposition to the Liberal 'individualism' that produced destructive competition and the horrific conditions of 19th century industrial life.

Marx picked up the term in the context of his critique of class-based capitalism, and changed the meaning. For Mark, socialism was a system that occurred after working classes overthrew individual-ownership capitalism. In essence, the working classes would remove productive property from the hands of individual owners and entrust it to a state apparatus which would fulfill the managerial role in the working classes' name. The ideal was that the working classes would then be in control of their own productive capacity, because the state itself would be responsive to the needs and interests of the working classes. But in practice (as Marx noted) the state would tend to become a new ruling class that supplanted the class of individual capitalists, and so the system would tend to collapse into dictatorship of one sort or another. Later theorists came up with many different forms of socialism in an effort to offset this tendency — e.g. syndicalism, in which governmental functions were handed off to the leaders of labor unions — but the core problem remained, that socialist systems retained the class structure of manager and worker classes, and thus could not escape the problems of class tyranny.

Communism was Marx's underspecified end-goal: a system in which the concept of 'class' is abolished entirely, so that exploitation and oppression become impossible. One might think of Marx's conception of communism as a form of Liberal democracy stripped of any free market competitive influences, though that's difficult for people in the Western world to visualize.

There have never been any communist nations of any scale. Nations that have called themselves 'communist' have generally been one form or another of socialist dictatorship, in much the same way that many nations which have styled themselves as 'democratic' are in fact autocratic dictatorships. At best we can think of the term 'communist' as aspirational; at worst as mere gas-lighting.

Ted Wrigley

Posted 2018-10-27T05:53:13.810

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