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.
The core of the socialist ideology is a negative position rather than an affirmation in that it is a reaction against the lack of government intervention in individual life, particularly economic life but also encompassing education, health, artistic expression, marital and family affairs and religious beliefs. The mentality of a socialist is characterized by a certain neurotic anxiety, which could be called the socialist anxiety, that if human affairs are not regulated in all ways, chaos is the inevitable outcome. In this respect socialism bears close resemblance to ancient Judaic legalism from the time of Moses to that of Jesus, and its historical origins seem to lie in this tradition as well. Such collectivist policy deprives individuals of moral responsibility and is an impediment to human development.
Socialism is the only political philosophy to have emerged which addresses, realistically and with human compassion, the systemic evils and structural inequities of a caste and class division of society that is inspired by primitive, aggressive behaviour. "Might makes right" has continued in the main to be the creed of the Western world. Economic and military super-power dominates the globe, paid for by the exploitation of people by business investors and their financial and managerial allies, by business men and women, and by presidents and prime-ministers and their millionaire backers. The socialist challenge to this system has had victories in the past: universal education, public health services, government social pension and unemployment pay schemes, trade unionism, emancipation of women, protection of minorities, public housing and so on. Its biggest victory, world peace, has proved elusive due to the statist imperatives continuing to be propagated by the exploiters who, sitting on their hoards in moral darkness, hypocritically wave their flags while the world arms itself for a nuclear confrontation.