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Difference Between Socialism and Progressivism

Socialism vs Progressivism

Socialism is an economic system where the government runs and controls the production resources collectively owned by society to achieve its common good. Progressivism ,on the other hand, is a political philosophy that seeks to raise the standard of living of the average member of society in order to achieve a positive social change. While socialism and progressivism both seek the economic and political equality of all members of society, they differ in their views and approaches.

Socialists want to abolish capitalism because they believe that it exploits the working class. They want the working class to play an overpowering role in shifting society from capitalism to socialism either through a popular vote or going on a general strike or even going to the extreme of uprising or revolution. Progressives, on the other hand, believe that capitalism is the most expeditious way to grow the wealth of society under a regulated business environment. They want to attain social change gradually. They do not expect the working class to play a major role in the social change they want. They also object to any form of violence to achieve social change. The progressives believe that the approach of the socialists in achieving social change is too drastic and could cause social unrest. Instead, the progressives convince the poor or less privileged to be jealous of the rich capitalists in order to influence the working class to vote progressives into power and perform the government obligation of improving the life of the community.

In terms of economic advocacy, socialism promotes a planned economy wherein the blueprint for the production and distribution of goods and services is determined ahead of time. Socialists also believe in the equitable distribution of productivity gains. They believe that those who worked more, deserve to be given more. Progressivism goes for a mixed economy where the basic features of capitalism and socialism are present. Supporters of progressivism believe that wealth should be distributed equally among members of society. Where wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few, such wealth must be put under the control of a democratic political establishment. Progressives support economic egalitarianism and as such, treat members of society as co-equals in terms of their right to use the economic resources and wealth and their contribution to such wealth and resources.

Socialism is considered the mother of progressivism which explains their common goal of attaining equality among individuals in society.


1. Socialism wants to achieve the common good of society through public management and control of production resources while progressivism seeks to achieve public good by gradually raising the standard of living of the average member of society.
2. Socialists seek to abolish capitalism because it exploits the working class while progressives want to employ capitalism in expediting the accumulation of wealth for the benefit of the masses.
3. Socialism advocates a planned economy while progressivism supports a mixed economy.
4. Socialism is considered to be the mother of progressivism.

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  1. Better not tell Hilary Clinton that bit about Progressiveness. She hates Capitalism, yet calls herself a progressive.

    • She was a lawyer for Walmart. How could you possibly say she hates capitalism?

      • Why was Hillary a lawyer for Wal-mart. MONEY!!!!!!!

      • Yes. How could she be a lawyer for Walmart and not be a capitalist? Typical of the misconceptions people have about what socialism is.

        • It makes sense because Socialist leaders are often hypocrites. Capitalism is good for them but they want socialism for everybody else.

      • She likes capitalism that enriches her and her cronies. She is like many of those currently in our government and big business or small businesses working with government. They are all for businesses that help fund their campaign coffers, enrich them personally, and which do what they want to help them buy votes. They do NOT like businesses which do not serve their purposes. Whereas socialists try to run businesses through government, progressives seek to control businesses, but not be saddled with the responsibility to make them work. If what they demand works and the business succeeds, they want a large share of the proceeds. If the business fails, then too bad for the investors, which all too often is the taxpayer because with crony capitalists, often it is government providing grants or loans. A perfect example of this is Solyndra. Actually, that was a bad example because it was never going to work. That particular government loan deal was meant to ensure the millionaire cronies who made a bad investment in that company were able to bail out whole. Once the $545 million taxpayer backed loan was obtained, the stock prices rose. Then the investor cronies bailed out. It was meant to ensure those who gave Obama big buck donations in his 2008 campaign were able to bail out. The taxpayers got to take that loss. I never wanted anything to do with Solyndra or numerous other companies the government gave my tax money to. But in progressivism, I, as a taxpayer, have no say in that. I’m forced to finance bad investments by government masterminds.

  2. Socialism is NOT an economic system. It is an entire social system that includes an economic aspect. Socialism is a philosophy, an epistomology, an all embracing secular way of living. It is however, true to say that Marx believed society was based on economic relationships. Thus, the Communist Manifesto reflects the fact that key social institutions were the lynchpins of exploitation and oppression. Marriage, religion, patriarchal family relationships and inheritance. But the abolition of marriage is not what most people would deem “an economic policy”, unless they have a Marxist worldview.

    Socialism does not seek to abolish capitalism. Socialism wants to outlaw capitalism for everyone except the state to engage in. There’s a difference between those two concepts. Capitalism cannot be abolished, until such time as we have the technology to make markets unnecessary, by creating products from thin air through the manipulation of subatomic particles freely available in infinite quantities. And make “value” meaningless.

    Capitalism isn’t the opposite of socialism. Capitalism is the entire spectrum, with socialism at one end of it.

    • “Capitalism isn’t the opposite of socialism. Capitalism is the entire spectrum”

      Capitalism is defined by private ownership of the means of production, not markets. Even laissez-faire fundamentalists know capitalism isn’t “the entire spectrum” (whatever that means). Your definition of capitalism seems to be a synonym for economics. It is entirely fictional.

      Socialism, on the other hand, is defined by worker control, not state control, of the means of production. Some socialist theory argues the state will first take over the means of production. However, many socialists believe state ownership of the means of production a form of “state capitalism” because an elite bureaucracy, not the working class, is in control.

      • I don’t think you’re understanding me.

        Socialism is merely a system/philosophy of regulation over economic behavior.
        Communism is merely a system/philosophy of regulation over economic behavior.
        Laissez-faire is merely a system/philosophy of regulation over economic behavior.
        Social democracy is merely a system/philosophy of regulation over economic behavior.
        Democratic socialism, communitarianism, fascism, Third Way, neo-liberalism, etc… etc… etc… are merely a system/philosophy of regulation over economic behavior.

        Capitalism… or whatever you want to call it… is merely a term with no real definition agreed upon… to describe human economic behavior.

        So yes… you are correct when you say I’m using capitalism as a synonym for economics. That’s exactly what I’m doing. Because… in the end… there’s no difference between North Korea and Hong Kong except in the levels of regulation and oversight.

        • Government of necessity influences society. Capitalism depends upon individuality and personal initiative and encourages people to think for themselves and solve their own problems since the means of production and distribution are not in the hands of a centralized authority. Therefore society assumes that individuals will be self-reliant. This promotes a society in which people are able to conduct themselves responsibly.

          • Capitalism doesn’t depend on anything, Richard, except the existence of human beings who need things and provide things in exchange for things they need. Capitalism will function in the absence of individual initiative – just not nearly as well. Capitalism doesn’t do a thing to encourage personal initiative. Rather, personal initiative demonstrates itself in the markets. Societies that over-regulate capitalism will certainly stifle the fruits of initiative from being expressed or realized in the marketplace.

  3. email me.

  4. Unfortunately both socialism and progressivism have flaws, among others:

    1. Both are top down. They take power from the people and move it to the top, the STATE. (Big Gulp anyone)
    2. Both distort incentives. (Everyone gets a C grade: A’s are discounted, and F’s are subsidized). This “social justice” punishes performance, and rewards sloth.
    3. Both reward and encourage dependence on government.
    4. Both promise Utopia, buy taking from performers, and giving to non-performers. Eventually performers leave, revenue drops, etc. (More in the wagon than pulling the wagon)
    5. Both create colossal, expensive, bureaucracies.
    6. Neither seeks the citizen’s opinion.
    7. Neither has any history of success. (EU)
    8. Both ideologies claim moral superiority over other systems, arguing theory over evidence.
    9. Both have an elastic definition of fair, justice, equality, and rights. These terms are presented as “moral” yet invariably are re-defined by the political needs of the moment.

    An uncorrupted Republic tends to reward performance, generate much higher GNP, and with the higher revenue, supply a safety net. There is equality of opportunity, but not equality of outcome. There is a wide range of outcomes. (Bell Curve) This system has compassion for the wide variety in humanity. The needs of the citizen are determined by the citizen, not the state.

  5. I think this definition of socialism is outdated and it use serves the progressives.

    Here is a question for people. At what point does goverment regulation and control of business reach a point that it becomes basically the same thing as goverment owning and running the businesses?

    Is this the new socialism? Replacing “ownership of the means of production” with “regulation and control of the means of production”.

  6. Today, there is no real difference between the two words. The Democratic Socialists of America uses “progressive” and “socialist” interchangeably on its website. The Socialist International’s tagline is “Progressivism for a Fairer World.”

  7. Socialism is the redistribution of wealth, increased dependency on government, and severe government regulation (i.e. “big government”).

    Progressivism is pretty much the same except it views capitalism as a necessary evil.

    The only real difference is their views on capitalism.

  8. Whomever wrote this article has never actually studied economics or social systems and the inherent cronyism that exists in hierarchical societies or the natural economic inefficiencies that when resources are concentrated.

    Economic growth with equity is not a natural function of capitalism or the markets.

    • Unfortunately for you and all the other “true believers”, socialism is all about concentrating the resources and capital of people in the hands of the elite who run the state. And those elites run the state JUST LIKE any other crony capitalist would do – as a means to keep themselves in power.

      Socialism doesn’t eliminate capitalism. Neither does communism. What a ridiculous myth this is. Both systems only manage to dictate who may practice capitalistic market behavior under their span of control and who may not. In Cuba, only Castro and his cronies are millionaires.

  9. Socialism and progressiveness they both travel in the river of envy, hate, police estate,
    OppressiON, lack of individual liberties,lack of freedom of religion….repudious acts to the people, no habeas corpus, no impartial legal defense for the dedendant…to the ocean of COMMUNISM.

  10. “The goal of socialism is communism.”

    Vladimir Lenin

  11. “Socialism is an economic system where the government runs and controls the production…”

    the first sentence of this article starts off with an incorrect definition of socialism. opening with a faulty premise isn’t a good start, but it is a good place to end reading.

  12. I’ve never understood the quote (from this web site’s summary, above) that “Socialism is considered the mother of progressivism” due to their common goal of attaining equality among individuals in society. Socialism & progressivism differed so greatly in their approaches that they should be considered rivals, not one spawning the other; if anything, socialism was the evil step-sibling of progressivism!

    I cry foul at this quote chiefly because some of my students, in a sophomoric attempt to troll the web for quick answers to my midterm question comparing socialism & progressivism, latch onto this quote but fail to explain it in any way. Should I continue docking them for this, or somehow incorporate it into my class presentations on the two, rival reform ideologies of the early 20th century? Thanks for your help!

  13. Like communism, socialism and progressivism are simply means by which the elite gain wealth and power on the backs of the poor and middle class.

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