Democratic socialism is a political philosophy supporting political democracy within a socially owned economy, with a particular emphasis on economic democracy, workplace democracy and workers' self-management within a market socialist economy or some form of a decentralised planned socialist economy. Democratic socialists argue that capitalism is inherently incompatible with the values of freedom, equality and solidarity and that these ideals can only be achieved through the realisation of a socialist society. Although most democratic socialists seek a gradual transition to socialism, democratic socialism can support either revolutionary or reformist politics as means to establish socialism. As a term, it was popularised by social democrats who were opposed to the authoritarian socialist development in Russia and elsewhere during the 20th century.
The origins of democratic socialism can be traced to 19th-century utopian socialist thinkers and the British Chartist movement that somewhat differed in their goals yet all shared the essence of democratic decision making and public ownership of the means of production as positive characteristics of the society they advocated for. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, democratic socialism was also influenced by social democracy. The gradualist form of socialism promoted by the British Fabian Society and Eduard Bernstein's evolutionary socialism in Germany influenced the development of democratic socialism. Democratic socialism is what most socialists understand by the concept of socialism. It may be a very broad or more limited concept, referring to all forms of socialism that are democratic and reject an authoritarian Marxist–Leninist state. Democratic socialism can include libertarian socialism, market socialism, reformist socialism and revolutionary socialism as well as ethical socialism, liberal socialism, social democracy and some forms of state socialism and utopian socialism.
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