The roots of Social Democracy lead back to the philosophy of the Age of Enlightenment, the values of the French Revolution as well as the Christian ethics. However, the modern movement as we know it today started to emerge at the end of the 19th century as a part of the growing labour movement. The labour movement was formed as a reaction to the development of the industrialised society, demanding more integrative equality in society as well as political and social rights that had been denied to the majority of people.
At the beginning of the 20th century, political factions of the labour movement started to dissociate, splitting up into reformists and communists. The reformists were social democrats pursuing a gradual change towards democracy, while the communists called for the abolition of the economical system by means of an armed revolution. Consequently, the social democratic party abandoned the revolutionary views of the extreme left and aspired to obtain power and social progress by democratic means specifically.
In the course of the 20th century, the social democratic movement has proven to be a significant political power, creating a kind of ”third way” between the soviet model of socialism/communism and the capitalistic system. Typical for this model is market economy and a welfare state of collective responsibility that promotes democratic and social rights for everyone. By means of regulation and correction of market failure, the capitalistic system has been made more socially equitable.
Today, globalisation and climate change pose even bigger challenges in terms of the democratisation of the global economy and the creation of a fair society. The Social Democrats are a notable political force in practically every European country and in many other countries as well.