Nouns, adjectives and politics

Kathryn Blaze Carlson considers socialism and the future of the NDP.

The distinction between “democratic socialism” and “social democracy” grew up in the post-war period, and by the late-1960s, many European parties of this ideological bent started calling themselves social democratic. While a lay person might think the ordering of terms is six of one, half a dozen of the other, sequence actually matters. “It’s a question of which is the noun and which is the adjective,” Mr. Sears said. “If you believe in social democracy, you can say you are a democrat who believes in a system of social justice. If you’re a democratic socialist, you can you are a socialist — whatever that means — who believes in the achievement of socialist ends through democracy.” When asked whether he would describe Mr. Layton as a socialist, Mr. Capstick said, “No. He’s a social democrat.”

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