Define: Socialism

UK Accounting Glossary

Definition: Socialism

Quick Summary of Socialism

An economic system in which goods and services are provided through a central system of cooperative and/or government ownership rather than through competition and a free market system.

What is the dictionary definition of Socialism?

Dictionary Definition

A political theory advocating state ownership of industry.

  1. Marxism The intermediate phase of social development between capitalism and full communism in Marxist theory in which the state has control of the means of production.
  2. Any of several later political philosophies such as libertarian socialism, democratic socialism, and social democracy which do not envisage the need for full state ownership of the means of production nor transition to full communism, and which are typically based on principles of community decision making, social equality and the avoidance of economic and social exclusion, with economic policy giving first preference to community goals over individual ones.


Full Definition of Socialism

Socialism is an economic system that is founded on cooperation in contrast to competition. It employs centralized planning and distribution to achieve economic ends. Socialism advocates collective or state ownership and administration for production and distribution of goods.

Socialism has no specified program and doctrine. A number of socialists support views that oppose each other. Some adherents prefer complete nationalization of a country’s means of production, exchange and distribution. A few socialists recommend state control of a country’s capital within the market economy frame. Social democrats espouse discriminate nationalization of major national industries. Tax-funded welfare programs are also recommended by social democrats.

State Control

All forms of socialism announce an economic system where the country’s means of production and distribution are owned and controlled either by state or workers. The erstwhile U.S.S.R implemented state ownership of production with centralized planning. The state determined the whole process- from the quantity to be produced, the means of production, and the sale prices of the commodities. The system was regarded as an alternative to market demand that determines commodity production and prices.

Mixed Economy

The period after World War II saw many European countries following and implementing a type of economic practice popularly known as a mixed economy. Governments of these European countries nationalized key industries while allowing free-market economics to determine the rest. Some companies formed in this era were the result of a number of small companies clubbed together. Famous examples of this type include the iconic British car brand Rolls Royce. Another prime example of socialist economic policy is the nationalization of British coal mines in 1947.

Cooperative Economy

A number of socialists suggest an economic system that is worker-managed. A ‘cooperative economy’ is an example of this type of economy. In a cooperative economy, workers themselves administer the firms and regulate labour divisions and remuneration levels. Productive resources would be under the legal ownership of the cooperative. These resources would then be rented out to the workers enjoying usufruct rights.


Critics of socialism point out to the fact that socialist economics cannot correctly determine production quotas and prices due to the marked absence of a price mechanism. Rational economic decisions cannot be made in a socialist state. A loss of economic and political freedoms is also seen.


Synonyms For Socialism

communism, collectivism, socialist economy, statism, socialist

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Modern Language Association (MLA):
Socialism. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. March 30, 2020
Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):
Socialism. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. (accessed: March 30, 2020).
American Psychological Association (APA):
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Definition Sources

Definitions for Socialism are sourced/syndicated and enhanced from:

  • A Dictionary of Economics (Oxford Quick Reference)
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Accounting
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Business & Management

This glossary post was last updated: 9th January 2020.