Printable Version
Pronunciation: so-shêl-iz-êm Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: Several political movements united by the belief that ownership of the means of production should be collective. Corporations should be owned by society as a whole through democratically elected governments (unlike the erstwhile dictatorships in Eastern Europe). Socialism differs from communism in the communist desire to prohibit all private ownership; everything except household possessions should be owned in common by the community.

Notes: Since the president has been accused of being a socialist, a communist, and a Nazi, we should at least know what these words mean. First of all, the Nazis were mortal enemies of socialism; before and during the Holocaust, the Nazis killed hundreds of thousands of communists and socialists until they went underground. (Nazi is an abbreviation of National Socialist Party, a gross misnomer.)

In Play: While there are too many socialist parties to enumerate here, I might mention the existence of a Christian Socialist movement, based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. Those who hold to this tenet simply reject the Marxist thesis that "religion is the opiate of the people". This socialist extreme makes the point that socialism covers a wide range of divergent opinions. There are many socialist parties throughout the world currently participating peacefully in democratic governments.

Word History: Today's Good Word combines the suffix -ism "belief" + socialis "pertaining to companionship" from socius "companion". The Proto-Indo-European root underlying today's word is the same PIE word that underlies another Good Word, sequester. It came to Old English directly as secg "companion" and Old Norse seggr "companion", neither of which survived the trials and tribulations of time. We find traces of the Latin word in many borrowings of English from Latin and Romance languages: sociable, associate, and dissociate. (Suzanne Russell thought that since the President has been accused of simultaneously being a Nazi, a socialist, and a communist, we should run one of these words as a Good Word. Here it is, Suzanne; thanks for the suggestion.)

Dr. Goodword,

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