Socialism Vs Marxism Differences and Similarities

The purpose of the socialism vs Marxism essay is to compare and contrast the two concepts. This article explains what socialism and Marxism stand for as well as their strengths and weaknesses. This is to help in making their similarities and differences more vivid without any form of ambiguity.

Table of Contents


What is socialism?

Socialism refers to an economic system whereby the government fully owns and controls trade and industry. Here, the government is in full ownership and control of all means of production. The economic system basically is after societal needs, it is not based on self-interest. And because of the focus on societal needs, competition has no place in this system as no private ownership of means of production is allowed.  So in essence, this system works to carry out production for the good of society, everyone. Total government control over the economy is a major characteristic of this economic system. Another name for socialism is a centrally planned economy.

Theoretically, socialism is a classless economy where there are no class distinctions. Most economies are neither pure capitalists nor pure socialists. The classless economic feature of socialism has not attained total fulfillment.

A pure socialist economy does not permit private ownership and control of legal production as it is the state that is fully in charge. By implication, it is the government that makes all economic decisions. Though socialism may permit private ownership of property, no individual has the right to own large means of production such as companies and factories. For instance, an individual can own furniture but cannot own a furniture-producing company. The features of socialism are the direct opposite of capitalism.

Who is a socialist?

A socialist is an individual who is in support of a political and economic ideology that states that society at large should be in full ownership and control of certain goods and services. In other words, a socialist is someone who supports or advocates for socialism. Someone who believes that the solution to the problems in an economy can only be solved through the adoption of socialism.

Socialism pros and cons

1. Advantages of socialism

Absence of exploitation

Socialism gives no room for exploitation because the government gives no room for that. Under this economy, every individual contributes according to his ability and receives according to his contributions. The government/state guarantees that everyone has access to his basic needs. Those who are not able to contribute due to disability or other reasons have the privilege of enjoying this access. Socialism is a good mechanism for reducing the level of poverty in an economy as everyone enjoys equal rights to health facilities and other social welfare.

Minimize poverty

Due to the fact that those who cannot contribute also enjoy certain access to basic needs, the system minimizes poverty. In other words, minimizing poverty comes as a result of the fact that everyone is equal and has equal rights to social welfare.

Rejection of discrimination

Since the rights and privileges of everyone are equal, the system does not approve of any form of discrimination. Every individual can do what he can do best with higher pay for those jobs that no one is available to do but yet needs to be done.

Social welfare and justice

Socialism is not based on self-interest but focuses on societal needs and benefits. While capitalism bases on the purchasing power of consumers thereby making the poor become worse off, socialism prevents this from happening. Socialism is a selfless system that places more priority on the basic needs of the people. With this, there is no cause to worry about tomorrow and in turn, this amounts to an increase in productivity. Also, the government provides a conducive working environment thereby reducing job risks. In an event of an accident, the government takes responsibility.

Social justice possesses so many benefits and advantages to the masses because of minimal inequalities and the ease in the equitable distribution of national income. Every individual enjoys his own share of the national wealth as well as equal opportunities. In turn, the issue of consumer exploitation is eliminated.

Rapid and balanced economic development

As a centrally planned economy, socialism facilitates prompt plans and decisions by the state regarding the allocation of resources. The government tends to efficiently utilize resources thereby minimizing wastage which, in turn, amounts to rapid economic growth. The imbalance in the focus on development becomes minimal as a result.

Minimal exploitation and class conflict

One of the major purposes of socialism is to create a classless society that fosters equality for every individual. In this case, a situation whereby the rich exploit the poor is absent. Discrimination and favoritism are usually absent in a socialist economy where the government is transparent. Everyone is equal in the economy as no class distinctions exist. In turn, the system helps to eliminate any form of class struggles that is common in the capitalist economic system.

2. Disadvantages of socialism


When the masses become over-dependent on corporate pooling for things to be done, there is usually a big disadvantage. A socialist economy expects everyone to constantly cooperate without any form of competition. Here, competitive individuals are seen as the cause of social catastrophe for their self-interests.

No choices and freedom

Under socialism, there is no provision for choices to the people. The people only have access to the brand of products provided by the government. The system tends to be monopolistic in nature thereby coercing people to buy a particular product at a particular price. Also, the freedom of enterprise and free choice of occupation is absent under this economy. It is the central planners that assign jobs to the people and no worker has the right to change his job without the consent of the government.

Lack of incentives

A typical socialist economy should not levy taxes on people. But here, higher progressive taxation seems to cause disincentives to work harder or set up businesses. In such cases, entrepreneurs feel that the government is taking a high proportion of their profits. Because of this, some people avoid risks and migrate to other countries instead. Extra efforts do not yield any added advantage as the system does not approve of individual wealth accumulation. This negatively affects the incentive to work hard as well as be creative and innovative.

Government failure

The idea of socialism is that the government will succeed in regulating all sectors of the economy. On the other hand, government intervention is prone to government failure and inefficient allocation of resources. For instance, regulating the labor market such as minimizing or maximizing the working period can amount to unemployment and inflexibility. Another instance is that a corrupt government will only jeopardize the economy. Due to the high rate of government regulation on firms, investment is discouraged thereby lowering economic growth and development.

No suitable basis for calculating cost

Under capitalism, market forces (demand and supply) determine the cost of production as well as the subsequent prices of commodities. Under socialism, this is not the case. The government owns and controls everything, that is the role of an entrepreneur. This means that the means of production do not have a market price. So because of this, there is no suitable basis for calculating the cost of production as well as the price of goods and services.

Most times, people use socialism and communism interchangeably but they do not mean the same thing. The two terms are distinct from each other, not the same philosophy. The reason for this confusion is that both socialism and communism seek to establish a classless society where everyone has equal opportunities. Also, both systems have to do with the public ownership of capital or productive resources as well as the contribution based on one’s ability. These features mentioned above made the two terms look like the same thing.


What Is Marxism?

Marxism is a social, economic, and political concept named after Karl Marx. It critically checks the impact capitalism has on labor, productivity, and development in an economy. It also advocates for a worker revolution to overturn capitalism in favor of communism. Marxism also argues that class struggles especially between the employers or capitalists, and the working class, and it clearly states economic relations in a capitalist economy and will eventually amount to revolutionary communism. In essence, Marxism is a concept that focuses on struggles between capitalists and the working class. The concept of marxism includes the Marxist theory of class conflict and Marxian economics within its scope.

Karl Marx pointed out that the power relationships that exist between capitalists and the working class were in the nature of exploitation, this will inevitably amount to class conflicts and struggles. He believed that these class conflicts will amount to revolution whereby the working class would overthrow the capitalists and seize economic control.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels first formulated Marxism publicly in the 1848 pamphlet, The Communist Manifesto. They laid down the theory of class struggle and revolution. Basically, Marxian economics focuses on the criticisms of the capitalist economy which Karl Marx wrote about in his book in 1867 (Das Kapital.1).

Karl Marx believed that capitalism inherently possessed the seeds of its own destruction. The alienation and exploitation of the working class are factors that will inevitably push the working class towards rebelling against the capitalists thereby seizing control of means of production. He, therefore, predicted that collective ownership of means of production would replace private ownership, first under socialism and then communism. In the final phase of human development, social classes, class distinctions, and class struggles would no longer be in existence.

Marxism pros and cons

1) Advantages of Marxism

True equality

Marxism tends to create true equality though it is considered communism. There is usually an emphasis on human rights. The theory has equal gender roles, access to education, and health care facilities as part of its foundation. Karl Marx believed that equality should exist before the law and societal services where everyone has an equal say and opportunity without any form of gender-based discrimination. This implies that every individual should be able to have access to the most important things he needs. This should be so regardless of what he does, where he lives, or what he earns to fend for those that depend on him.

Protects unions’ rights

Marxism encourages individuals to come together and form unions to stand up for their personal rights. This is to prevent them from facing any form of exploitation from their managers. In turn, it creates a system of checks and balances in order to facilitate the achievement of a maximum level of production. It is believed that the idea of marxism does not exploit workers and the followers believe that unions are certainly a great idea.

Rare debt

Under Marxism, people and communities work together to achieve their success. While farmers cultivate, doctors provide health facilities, manufacturers engage in production, etc.  People come together to make provisions for one another with the government distributing the necessary resources. With this, Marxism reduces the tendency of debt.

Societal benefits

Marxism benefits society. Looking at the theory, it is considerate about society as a whole. This implies that it acknowledges every social force involved and this includes the power of interests of various groups. Emphasizing the impact of class struggles and conflicts within society between the capitalists and the working class is effective in explaining societal change. It helps in organizing society under the capitalist economy where capitalists tend to maximize profits with the working class.

Helps with capitalism

In ironic terms, when large multinationals dominate the economy of the entire world, advocates of capital would point out that the future lies with small businesses or say that small is beautiful. We can however be considerate of the fact that the youthful phase of capitalism has gone beyond recall. As far as Marxism is concerned, monopoly is inevitable in a free-market economy where larger and small capitals yield the same result. In modern times, the wide range of power of multinationals and monopolies tend to get hold of the world thereby having access to economies of scale, gathering sums of money, being able to manipulate the price of commodities, and even influencing government policies. Marxism has been able to predict the inevitable likelihood of monopolization where free competition was a standard.

2) Disadvantages of Marxism

Elimination of private ownership concept 

Private ownership of property is absent under Marxism. Here, everyone is given a place to live as they are part of the community, contributing to their common good. By implication, an individual has no control over where he lives or what he does to contribute to society. The Marxist idea suggests the abolishing of having private properties and businesses. In turn, this makes it impossible for anyone to take business advantage of opportunities, yielding no extra reward for hard work.

Abolishes religion

Under Marxism, people are free to have their own religion/faith but do not have the freedom to practice it in an organized manner. Obviously, religion would ultimately place one group in a superior position over another. This goes contrary to the idea of equality that Karl Marx had. By implication, there would be no organized religion. Marx believed that religion used religion to control others, so people would not have the freedom of choosing their spirituality.

No opportunities for entrepreneurs

There is usually no room for entrepreneurship. Under Marxism, business owners are working under the government. By implication, you cannot have your restaurant, blogging center, sole proprietorship, corporations, private limited liability companies, or private partnerships. Everything is under the control of and runs through the government.

Negative effects on education

The Marxist idea negatively affects the educational system. In this instance, education implements one that is absolutely under the control of the state. By implication, the state determines teaching methodology, construction of curriculum, and system of examination. It does not give room for other agencies of education, either local or regional. Here, economics takes a vital position in the curriculum. Education views economics as the root of every activity of humans though this is not factual. This can amount to the neglect of the creative faculties of children.

It can lead to communism

In the occurrence of Marxism, communism is possible as it is believed that this philosophy can amount to dictatorship. Obviously, it would not allow individualism as this can make up a dangerous society without anyone having motivation. Theoretically, equality sounds great where everyone receives fair treatment but it is important to note that the individual is out of the focus of this theory.

Socialism vs Marxism

Socialism vs Marxism similarities

The socialism vs Marxism essay explains the factors that make socialism and Marxism similar. The areas of similarities between these two concepts are;

  • Equality
  • Ownership and control
  • Social welfare
  • Exploitation
  • Economic goals and revolution


Both socialism and Marxism have a common view on equality. They move towards analyzing the effects of class struggles on the economy and seek to achieve an equalitarian society. The systems also seek an equal distribution of wealth which the working class and labor create.

Ownership and control

Both concepts do not permit private ownership and control of the means of production. In other words, they abolish the concept of having private properties and businesses. As a result of this, it becomes impossible for anyone to take business advantage of opportunities, yielding no extra reward for hard work. In essence, they move towards state ownership and control of properties and productive resources.

Social welfare

Socialism and Marxism seek to work for the benefit of society, they do not seek after self-interests as capitalism does. They prioritize the basic needs of the people as well as the common good of society. Also, they seek to eliminate any situation that widens the gap between the rich and the poor which would make the rich better off and the poor worse off. They try to operate based on selflessness and the government would take responsibility for any accident that occurs in the course of one carrying out his duty.

Minimal exploitation

They both aim at creating a society that fosters equality for every individual. In turn, they eliminate an instance whereby the rich will exploit the poor or capitalists exploit the working class. It is certain that exploitation will amount to rebellion and class struggles. Socialism and Marxism try to look at the effects of this on an economy and try to create an economy where exploitation is absent.

Economic goals and revolution

Both socialism and Marxism check the impact of capitalism on labor, production, and economic development. Socialists and Marxists tried to analyze the effects of class struggles in an economy and try to curb their negative and hazardous impacts. They both believe in revolution and overturning capitalism in favor of socialism and communism.

Differences between socialism and Marxism

Socialism vs Marxism chart

The socialism vs Marxism chart summarized the differences that exist between socialism and Marxism.

Table illustrating the socialism vs marxism differences
Basis for comparison
An economic system in which the government is in charge/full ownership of all means of production. The central planners carry out basic economic decisions.
A social, economic, and political concept named after Karl Marx. It critically checks the impact capitalism has on labor, productivity, and development in an economy.
Every individual contributes according to his ability and receives according to his contribution.
A state that the upper classes represent exploit the workers.
Every individual should be able to access basic articles of consumption as well as public goods to provide room for self-actualization.
A materialistic conception of history that seeks to explain all societal developments and further predict future social changes.
Coexistence with other political systems
Ownership structure
Some levels of private property ownership, government control of factors of production.
Common ownership with individual ownership was abolished.
No formal practice
Tendency of Dictatorship
Key proponents
Robert Owen, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, Fredrick Engels, and Emma Goldman.
Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels


Key differences between socialism and Marxism


The socialist philosophy states that everyone is to contribute according to his ability and to each individual according to his contribution. Class struggles and conflicts are absent, so there is no need for the violent overthrow of capitalists/ruling class. In essence, there should be a peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism without any demolition of the old structures of the state. On the other hand, Marxism says that A state that the upper classes represent exploit the workers. Marx stated that the working class sells their labor, yielding surplus value for the capitalists while they remain deprived. He believed that this triggers class conflicts and the working class would overthrow the ruling class by violent struggles thereby establishing a classless society.


According to socialism, every individual should be able to access basic articles of consumption as well as public goods to provide room for self-actualization. Large-scale industries are collective efforts and their returns must be of benefit to society as well. That is, the present government administration can make good use of the existing capitalist system to benefit the working class and there should be an organic unity of society. On the other hand, Marxism possesses a materialistic conception of history that seeks to explain all societal developments and further predict future social changes.

Coexistence with other political systems

Socialism can coexist with other political systems such as participatory and parliamentary democracies. On the other hand, Marxism fails to recognize and accommodate other political systems. The theory believes that the people are the ultimate authority when it comes to governance.

Ownership structure

Socialism allows some levels of private property ownership such as houses and cars, government control of factors of production such as factories. Under Marxism, all resources are commonly owned, that is, individual ownership was abolished.


While socialism permits religion as well as the formal practice of religion, Marxism almost abolishes it. This means that people are free to have their own religion/faith but do not have the freedom to practice it in an organized manner as the theory believes that religion goes against the idea of equality.

Tendency of dictatorship

Socialism has a very low tendency of dictatorship as the system believes in a peaceful revolution. On the other hand, Marxism has a high tendency of dictatorship as the theory does not give room for individualism.

Frequently asked questions

What is Marxism in simple terms?

Marxism is simply a social, economic, and political concept named after Karl Marx which critically checks the impact capitalism has on labor, productivity, and development in an economy.

What is socialism in Marxist theory?

In Marxist theory, socialism involves an economic transition direct economic planning where the sole criterion for production is to satisfy human needs and economic demands. The law of value will no longer direct economic planning and the forces of supply and demand will no longer determine the price of commodities. Here, the coordination of production for use takes place through conscious economic planning.

Does Marxism lead to socialism?

Yes, because Karl Mark predicted that collective ownership of means of production would replace private ownership, first under socialism and then communism.