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I frequently hear about these two different concepts. What is the fundamental difference between them?

Is there any religion in this world which had ever tried to establish social equality before ? As all the religion have powerfully and truly established the spiritual equality.

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    Do you mean communalism or communism? Oct 27, 2018 at 6:20
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    Yeah it's communism @SamuelRussell
    – Mihir
    Oct 27, 2018 at 8:59
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    Well, socialism according to Marx is the intermediate step between capitalism and communism. During socialism there should be a propaganda against capital and private owndership, I guess. Communism is the result of it.
    – rus9384
    Oct 27, 2018 at 11:33
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    @SwamiVishwananda I'm not asking about difference in the dictionary. But I'm telling you the fundamental differences as well as it can be also a political structural differences among them also
    – Mihir
    Oct 27, 2018 at 12:46
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    @SamuelRussell, if you want to agree with this question's close reason I have no problem. But I'm not agree with it. Because philosophy is not narrow minded to only philosophy of mind and other spiritual thoghts but if we think about it in depth, philosophy is always around us, it's inside our thoughts, it's around our all the activities if we deeply analyse it. so it covers all the merits and all the science as well as you said about social science.
    – Mihir
    Oct 28, 2018 at 4:18

6 Answers 6

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As Engels famously noted in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific that there are multiple approaches to what Socialism is. Some socialisms envisage an ethically appropriate ordering of human relations based on collective economic endeavour of some sort, and good associated cultures, and try to implement that plan. Others envisage the maximal development of working class power, economically and in terms of armed struggle, and that future social relations would be determined by the workers themselves (ourselves) based on their power and analysis while taking action.

Communism is normally used to refer to: utopian 19th century religious communities like kibbutz; or, an envisaged future historical process of the working class abolishing property relations; or, to the actual society of the Soviet Union after the 1940s.

In general these words don’t refer so much to specific ideologies, but are used as labels regarding organised political or economic movements in historical societies. They’re terms of social science more than ordered beliefs. And even the participants in these movements view their own ideas as methods of analysis or action rather than beliefs. The “scientific” approach of socialism as class war is more prevalent than the utopian approach of socialism as ideal ethics.


To expand on the specific difference between “socialism” and “communism” compared in the works of Marx and Engels and a number of those subsequently inspired:

For a certain interpretive tendency socialism is an intermediate or early form of workers self-governance and communism is a final or later form of workers self-governance, this time in the full abolition of work and property as social relationships.

What these constitute vary widely, often depending on support or detestation of the existence of wage labour and the state in the Soviet Union.

In contemporary revolutionary politics the call is often put for “FULL COMMUNISM NOW” such as in the 'Callie On The Roof' comic strip, from Pictures For Sad Children webcomic:

'Callie On The Roof' comic strip, from Pictures For Sad Children webcomic

Ie: skipping the intermediate relationship of workers being their own bosses. This is from a historical perspective of workers revolutions, hopeful at best.

For this criteria, Socialism would have a direct democratic state of mandated rotating recallable delegate elected workers councils from the factory floor upwards with the sole monopoly on social violence. (Cf: workers councils in Hungary 1956 especially November 4-December 20). These councils would control goods and service distribution on flat wage bases, much like they would control production and exchange democratically with expert advice and very limited production good only markets.

Communism would lack a monopoly on power, wages, classes, and be working on eliminating required labour entirely.


  • Engels, F. Socialism: Utopian & Scientific, an extract of Anti-Duhring
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    But Marx's communism presupposes lack of government. Seems to be a panarchy and never was the case in the USSR.
    – rus9384
    Oct 27, 2018 at 11:35
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    Wage labour as part of an expanded system of reproduction of retained value-form demonstrably existed in the Soviet Union, ask history.se if you need details or consult Pirani, Fitzpatrick, Andrle. And yet people suggest otherwise. Philosophy.se is not where I suggest that they're wrong as a result of empirical research. Oct 27, 2018 at 11:41
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    It is an attribute of both socialism and communism. That's not where distinction lies.
    – rus9384
    Oct 27, 2018 at 12:15
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    Yup. It is hard to tell communism from anarchism in the end.
    – user13955
    Oct 27, 2018 at 14:42
  • 'Communalism' (early on) needs to be changed to 'communism'. Best - GT.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Oct 28, 2018 at 16:36
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Ok, first point: Socialism is a term that predates Marx. Socialism began early in the industrial revolution, as a moral reaction against the abuses inherent to of privately-owned industry of the time. The basic idea was that that we should find some social and economic system that focused on the welfare of the community as a whole: in Aristotle's sense that a community was like a ship, and that everyone aboard had to work toward a common goal and a common welfare, or the whole thing would founder and sink. The term 'Socialism' was coined as an opposition to the Liberal 'individualism' that produced destructive competition and the horrific conditions of 19th century industrial life.

Marx picked up the term in the context of his critique of class-based capitalism, and changed the meaning. For Mark, socialism was a system that occurred after working classes overthrew individual-ownership capitalism. In essence, the working classes would remove productive property from the hands of individual owners and entrust it to a state apparatus which would fulfill the managerial role in the working classes' name. The ideal was that the working classes would then be in control of their own productive capacity, because the state itself would be responsive to the needs and interests of the working classes. But in practice (as Marx noted) the state would tend to become a new ruling class that supplanted the class of individual capitalists, and so the system would tend to collapse into dictatorship of one sort or another. Later theorists came up with many different forms of socialism in an effort to offset this tendency — e.g. syndicalism, in which governmental functions were handed off to the leaders of labor unions — but the core problem remained, that socialist systems retained the class structure of manager and worker classes, and thus could not escape the problems of class tyranny.

Communism was Marx's underspecified end-goal: a system in which the concept of 'class' is abolished entirely, so that exploitation and oppression become impossible. One might think of Marx's conception of communism as a form of Liberal democracy stripped of any free market competitive influences, though that's difficult for people in the Western world to visualize.

There have never been any communist nations of any scale. Nations that have called themselves 'communist' have generally been one form or another of socialist dictatorship, in much the same way that many nations which have styled themselves as 'democratic' are in fact autocratic dictatorships. At best we can think of the term 'communist' as aspirational; at worst as mere gas-lighting.

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Societies and political systems have generally evolved in proportion to the economics of human population density, in approximately the following order:

  1. Hunting/gathering, with informal division of labor and homemade weapons and tools. Natural diet. Some trading, sharing, and bartering. Tribal chiefs.
  2. Agriculture, with cultivation of crops and animal husbandry. More bartering. Homemade textiles, weaving. Monarchy and feudalism. Rise of patriarchy, and slavery.
  3. Simple capitalism, with trades, skilled cottage industries, and shop-keeping. Small villages and towns. Exclusive societies and fraternities.
  4. Industrialism, with mining, intensive exploitation of natural resources, wholesale business, manufacturing, mass-production, import/export. Shipping, railroads, air transportation. Division of labor begins to break down, along with family structure. Labor unions. Cities and metropolitan areas. Major ports.
  5. Corporatism, with banking and usury, currencies, contract law, globalization. Promotion of democracy.
  6. Socialism, with redistribution of wealth, welfare state, a powerful bureaucracy.
  7. Communism, with wealth and resources held in common. Everyone expected to pitch in with the labor. Totalitarianism.
  8. Fascism, with military industrial complex and dictatorships.
  9. Utopianism, emphasizing information technology and networking. Internet. Communication. Espionage and security services. Rise of 'professional authority' and universities. Idealism. Humanism.
  10. Anarchy, resulting from the exploitation of wars, disasters, political unrest, economic stresses, famines, disease epidemics, etc. Organized crime (including gangs and syndicates) and widespread corruption. Looting and robberies. Fraud, and general lawlessness.

I surmise that the default mode is hunting/gathering, triggered by extreme reductions of the human population, regardless of cause (including environmental or natural causes). Then as technology gradually advances with increases in population density, societies repeatedly cycle through governmental structures similar to the ones I have listed here. The higher the population density, the more difficult it becomes to keep society controlled and stable. Until finally, it breaks completely down in anarchy once again. Afterwards, it begins to regain stability again, with hunting/gathering.

It is better to compare socialism and communism relative to the whole framework of possibilities and history, rather than in isolation -- especially considering mrpanchal's original question essentially asked:

Is there [/] could [there] be [a] new ideology above Socialism and communism and capitalism [?]

And I hope that I have answered the question by outlining (to the best of my ability) the natural progression of governmental structures in relation to human population density, over time. I wouldn't say that either fascism or utopianism are necessarily "above" anything, in the sense of being any kind of real "improvement"; only that they are defensive reactions to unbearable social stresses.

While population density represents an important socio-economic parameter, its role is rarely studied in the economic literature...Too high population density decreases the natural endowment per capita...

Wikipedia, Socioeconomics

Oxford Scholarship Online, The Utopia and Radical Humanism (first chapter in a book by David Norbrook titled "Poetry and Politics in the English Renaissance", in which the author analyzes Sir Thomas More's work)

Wikipedia, "Anarchy, State, and Utopia", by Robert Nozick (1974, a book on the subject of distributive justice and libertarianism)

ResearchGate, "Socioeconomic Influences of Population Density", by Yuri Yegorov (Ph.D Economics, university of Vienna)

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    I'm sorry, but this answer is like a deeply libertarian-skewed response to the question. I don't now whether that's your issue or Wkipedia's, but it is factually incorrect, and horrendously biased. Please don't misinform people. Oct 9, 2019 at 14:51
  • I'd say that taking population density as the only variable without considering resources and marginal population (growth) over the last decades is scientifically problematic, to say the least, with a list that obviously is not based on empirical evidence but ideology. I may only have a minor in economics, but the list seems to be taken out of thin air, really, and missing any understanding of what socialism and communism are conceptually.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Oct 9, 2019 at 16:27
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Both of these terms have many definitions, depending on who is using them and what they are describing. If we talk about the "communist" governments of the mid-twentieth-century Soviet Union and China and compare them to the "socialist" governments of modern day Scandinavia, there are a lot of differences (single party rule vs. multi-party rule, planned economy vs. market economy, government opacity and total power vs. government transparency and accountablity, etc.)

If we look in the dictionary the terms are virtually indistinguishable.

As for religions that have attempted to create perfect social equality, Christianity is one example. In the book of Acts, we read:

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. (Acts 4:32)

Various groups of Christians have tried to recreate this model, including the Oneida Community, which eventually became a joint-stock company and is now owned by an equity fund.

Wikipedia has an article on Christian Communism with more examples.

It is of course not true that all religions have established spiritual equality. Most religions divide the world into those who are part of the religion, and therefore blessed in some way, and those who are not, who are therefore cursed. Most religions have special members who have special spiritual authority (Priests, ministers, Imams, etc). Some religions take the position of a person on earth, their wealth and power, as indications that they are particularly favored by the deity or deities of the religion.

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Answering the second part about religions that promoted social equality.

In 12th century India, specifically Kannada speaking region, there emerged a religious movement called Lingayatism which had two components. One was the usual spiritual part that pondered about life and gods. The second was more radical and promoted hardcore equality. To know why it was radical you need to understand the contemporaneity social conditions. The infamous caste system on Hindu society was as firm as ever, if not peaking. A man from privilaged section of the society (was a Brahmin by birth and later became a minister for a king) started this movement to eradicate the evil practice of caste system. (It is usually attributed to him but the nuances of credit is unimportant here.) It opposed the vedas, the source for Hindu society, including caste system. It was also a radical literary movement. Hundreds of people from oppressed and downtrodden community composed poems in the spoken register of Kannada, as opposed to either the sacred Sanskrit, or erudite conservative written register of Kannada, which was usually adopted by the privileged sections. The poems were pithy, precise, deep, many allegorical, and narrated both the devotion and social issues. Think of it as Medieval Kannada Blues. This corpus has become a cherished part of Kannada literature. Dare I say there was nothing comparable to this movement, at least in India, before this.

The sad part is no one outside Kannada speakers know of this. Indians usually focus on colonial era social reforms that happened in Bengal and Punjab regions and are totally ignorant about this watershed moment in Indian history. However there are many who argue, and I agree, that the latter movements were inspired by western values after contact with colonial masters, and probably done out of shame too. I go further and say Lingayatism happened back when Europe was a backwater engulfed in religious wars and religion infused ignorance reigned supreme, and was a total indigenous thought.

The sadder part is all the ideals of the leaders of the movement died along with them. Caste system crept back with a vengence and now Lingayats have subcastes, which is a major political point every election. As with other competing anti vedic philosophies like Jainism and Buddhism, Lingayatism is somewhat subsumed into Hinduism. Jains retain a bit of separateness, but Lingayats have ended up being a hybrid of Hindus and some vague form of the original Lingayatism. This latter aspect is also a major political boiling point. A section of Lingayats demand separate religion status citing the anti vedic origins but curiously the majority oppose it. One eminent and famous intellectual, a Lingayat himself, was even killed allegedly due to his separatist views and anti Hindu rhetoric.

Had this movement happened elsewhere, esp in Europe, or heck, even in North India, you would have had a symposium every year to discuss it. Wikipedia and other English sources about it are seriously lacking. So what must be considered a major milestone in Indian and thus world sociology and must have been well known has become a trivia you gather from a random post on stackexchange.

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Here is a basic distinction between Socialism and Communism:

  1. Socialism: Is an economic system that is either primarily or solely administered and managed by a Central Governing Authority....a.k.a. The State. Socialistic economies aim to readjust and "redistribute" the wealth of a society in favor of the poor and working class through the imposition of higher taxes on the Upper class and the Wealthy. The Socialistic approach towards Microeconomics, is to eliminate or dramatically reduce the Microeconomic system-(i.e. Capitalism) and maximize the Macroeconomic system-(a Governmentally based economic system), as a way of nearly equalizing economic opportunity and personal wealth-(despite its consistent unworkability and impracticality). Socialism's goal, is to do away with Capitalistic monopolies and to give full economic monopolistic Power to The State.

  2. Communism: The Founder(s) of Communistic Philosophy were Karl Marx-(and Friedrich Engels). Marx and Engels authored two important works which would define the essence of their Communistic Philosophy..."The Communist Manifesto" & "Das Capital"-("Capital).

Communism and Socialism share an identical disdain towards Capitalism. Both Communists and Socialists view Capitalism-(in particular, Corporate/Industrial Capitalism), as immoral/unjust, as well as inherently anti-democratic. The major difference between the two economic systems is that Socialism is preoccupied with fulfilling a type of economic justice, whereas Communism-(in its purest, most aspirational and naivest form), seeks to end and even destroy, the existence of ANY Hierarchical system-(whether it is Capitalism or even Socialism). Communism hopes to achieve universal equality of all peoples, through the dissolution of the State and the Industrial Corporation.

So in a way, Communists and Socialists, actually have a more adverse relationship, yet, both economic systems tend to befriend each other, due to their militantly moral opposition to the existence of Corporate Capitalism.

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  • That is not what the terms "micro" and "macro" refer to in economics.
    – philosodad
    Jul 11, 2022 at 12:10
  • Please elaborate.....I am curious.
    – Alex
    Jul 11, 2022 at 21:06
  • Loosely, macroeconomics studies the economic system as a whole, microeconomics studies the parts.
    – philosodad
    Jul 11, 2022 at 21:17
  • The term, "macroeconmics", has and still continues to emphasize the larger economic picture which focuses on the role economics plays within a larger governmental/ political context. In fact, before the term "marcoeconomics" was used, academics, policymakers, journalists-(and even everyday civilians alike, identified this form of economics as, "Political Economy". In the case of "microeconomics", there is a primary focus on how money/capital is exchanged, invested and traded, typically within markets and financial institutions within the larger private sector. So your definition..........
    – Alex
    Jul 12, 2022 at 1:27
  • is correct, though it needs to encompass a greater meaning......a meaning that has been stated above.
    – Alex
    Jul 12, 2022 at 1:28

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