Social Research Glossary


A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Home


Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


A fast-paced novel of conjecture and surprises



core definition

Socialism is an economic, political and social doctrine that expresses the struggle for the equal distribution of wealth by eliminating private property and the exploitative ruling class.

explanatory context

In practice, such a distribution of wealth is achieved by social ownership of the means of production, exchange and diffusion. Countries espousing socialism tend towards socialism but rarely eliminate private property or dispense with some form of ruling class altogether, although the latter is mediated by government, as, for example, in most Scandinavian countries during the latter half of the 20th Century.

Socialism is often confused with communism. For a table summing up the differences click here.

analytical review

Raynet Sociology Glossary (undated) states:

A social philosophy and system of social organization based on the principle of the public ownership of the material means of economic production. Socialism is both a political and an economic concept as a democratic society is necessary for its full realization and smooth functioning. In socialist society there is no possibility of deriving income from the ownership of production apparatus or goods, land, or capital (or what is broadly termed the exploitation of labor) since these are done away with entirely. It should be pointed out that the prevalent socialist myth in the United States that socialism involves centralized ownership and administration of all economic functions (as the Soviet socialist experience often indicated), has no grounding in socialist theory, particularly in democratic socialism. There have been and are many kinds of socialist theory: Marxian socialism, Fabian socialism, guild socialism, Christian socialism, syndicalism, etc. - Michael Harrington, Socialism (New York: Saturday Review Press, 1972).


Elwell's Glossary of Sociology (undated) defines socialism as:

An economic system in which the means of production and distribution of goods and services are publically owned.


Richard Schaefer (2017):

Socialism: An economic system under which the means of production and distribution are collectively owned.

associated issues


related areas

See also




Elwell's Glossary of Sociology, undated, available at, page not available 20 December 2016.

Harrington, M., 1972Socialism (New York: Saturday Review Press).

Raynet Sociology Glossary, undated, available at, no longer available 20 December 2016.

Schaefer, R. T., 2017, 'Glossary' in Sociology: A brief introduction, Fourth Edition, originally c. 2000, McGraw-Hill. Available at, site dated 2017, accessed 11 June 2017, 'not found' 14 June 2019.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Home