What are the Major Differences Between Socialism and Communism?

Socialism and communism can be split into two different models: an economic theory and a political theory. As mentioned before, communism can be generalized as a more extreme form of socialism. The differences of the socialism and communism theories within the context of economic and political theory are highlighted in the chart below.

    As Economic Theory
  • Centralized government allowed
  • Production and distribution is owned/regulated by this centralized government
  • Distribution of gains according to deeds (quantity and quality of work done.
  • Regulation and ownership by government, but private ownership all right as long as regulated/distributed amongst laborers.
  • Ownership is concentrated primarily to the workers (known as "collective ownership")
  • More people have a say in how the economy operates
    As Political Theory
  • Socialism in theory applies more to economics but can be practiced in politics.
  • Can co-exist with capitalism. Nonetheless, aims to empower the workers, while minimizing the influence of the upper classes managing.
  • Can co-exist with democracies.
  • Everyone who contributes labor will profit from it. Or anyone within the society who contributes will reap the benefits (i.e., universal healthcare and education to citizens/residents)
    As Economic Theory
  • No centralized government recognized
  • Production and distribution is through collective ownership by all in community.
  • Distribution of gains according to needs within the community.
  • People work because they want to contribute to overall good of their society.
  • Ownership by all, equally.
  • Less people have a say in how the economy operates.
    As Political Theory
  • Communism can be applied as an economic, as well as a political, theory.
  • Sees capitalism as a dictatorship. When the working class takes over, all will be balanced and a classless society will emerge. This is the ultimate political goal.
  • Doesn't allow for democracy.
  • Society will be taken care of equally. Whatever is provided to one will be provided in the same measure to another. No personal gain or profit.

As an economic theory, socialism allows room for some capitalism, although the majority of the profits still benefit the people overall. In a socialist economy, private ownership is allowed as long as a centralized government can regulate industry and distribute the profit based on work done. In a communist economy, there is no room for capitalism as the community owns all the means of production and profits are distributed according to need.

As a political theory, socialism can co-exist with other ideologies; even those that seem radically different such as democracy. A socialist society favors anyone who contributes labor by providing services for its citizens. In a communist society, no democratic ideologies can co-exist. Communism relies heavily on community identity and individualism, as well as private ownership, is suppressed. Instead, the community will provide for its members based on their needs.