A political philosophy comprising a vast range of ideological traits, socialism is expressed in three main ways: socialism which aims at revolution and the overthrowing of capitalist society (mainly equated with communism); socialism, including Christian socialism, which aims to gain improvements within the democratic constitutional framework (usually termed social democracy); fascism or state socialism which is violent, nationalistic and authoritarian. Socialism as an unqualified term may be used to describe all of these and also military and civilian dictatorships superimposed on nominally socialist regimes. Although socialism may be regarded as altruistically motivated, its aims and claims are very difficult to achieve in practice, giving rise to bitter factionalism, civil or general war, violence, subversive activities and general instability.
Although socialism as an idea for running societies is in disarray following the changes in eastern Europe, the influence of socialism remains strong, especially in the advanced democracies held up as models superior to those of Marxist socialism. This influence takes the form of state-financed education systems of demonstrable inefficiency, but especially the state-financed welfare systems, especially in their more destructive forms through which dependency is encouraged. In 1992 it was estimated that 1,200 million Asians were still living under socialism.