What Is Socialism in AP World History?

Socialism is an economic system that has been prominent in AP World History and has influenced many countries around the world. It is a system that emphasizes the social ownership of the means of production and distribution of goods and services. This article will explore what socialism is, how it has evolved over time, and its impact on societies around the world.

What is Socialism?

Socialism is an economic system where the means of production are owned and controlled by the community as a whole, rather than by individuals or corporations. The goal of socialism is to create a more equal society by distributing wealth more fairly among its citizens. In a socialist economy, resources are allocated based on need rather than profit.

History of Socialism

The roots of socialism can be traced back to the 18th century when philosophers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Thomas More wrote about the idea of communal ownership of property. However, it wasn’t until the 19th century that socialism began to take shape as a political movement.

In 1848, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published “The Communist Manifesto,” which laid out their vision for a society based on communism, which they saw as an advanced form of socialism. Marx believed that capitalism would eventually give way to socialism through a revolution led by the working class.

Throughout the 20th century, socialism became increasingly influential around the world. In Europe, many countries adopted socialist policies such as nationalized healthcare systems and government-run industries. In Asia, socialist governments were established in China, Vietnam, and North Korea.

Types of Socialism

There are several different types of socialism that have emerged over time:

Democratic Socialism

Democratic socialism aims to create a socialist society through democratic means rather than violent revolution. It advocates for greater government control over key industries such as healthcare, education, and energy.

Market Socialism

Market socialism seeks to combine the benefits of a market economy with the principles of socialism. In a market socialist economy, the means of production are owned collectively by workers, but goods and services are still bought and sold in the market.

State Socialism

State socialism involves the government owning and controlling all or most of the means of production. This form of socialism was prominent in the Soviet Union and other communist countries during the 20th century.

Impact of Socialism

Socialism has had a significant impact on societies around the world. Some argue that it has led to greater social equality and improved living standards for many people. For example, countries with strong welfare states such as Sweden and Denmark have some of the highest standards of living in the world.

However, others argue that socialism can lead to economic inefficiencies and reduced individual freedoms. Critics also point to examples such as Venezuela where socialist policies have led to economic collapse and political unrest.


In conclusion, socialism is an economic system that emphasizes social ownership and control over key industries. It has evolved over time into several different forms, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. While socialism has had significant impacts on societies around the world, its effectiveness remains a subject of debate among economists and policymakers alike.