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Social democracy

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-S057-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved March 05, 2024, from

Article Summary

The idea of social democracy is now used to describe a society the economy of which is predominantly capitalist, but where the state acts to regulate the economy in the general interest, provides welfare services outside of it and attempts to alter the distribution of income and wealth in the name of social justice. Originally ’social democracy’ was more or less equivalent to ’socialism’. But since the mid-twentieth century, those who think of themselves as social democrats have come to believe that the old opposition between capitalism and socialism is outmoded; many of the values upheld by earlier socialists can be promoted by reforming capitalism rather than abolishing it.

Although it bases itself on values like democracy and social justice, social democracy cannot really be described as a political philosophy: there is no systematic statement or great text that can be pointed to as a definitive account of social democratic ideals. In practical politics, however, social democratic ideas have been very influential, guiding the policies of most Western states in the post-war world.

Citing this article:
Miller, David. Social democracy, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-S057-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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