With Trump and other politicians talking about a form of a stimulus package for every adult in America as a means to address a dire situation, a turn of phrase has been popping about news articles and the like: "emergency socialism". Trump's campaign has been highlighted by his stances against socialism, so it is certainly odd to see the term being touted so highly amongst both Republican politicians and their supporters. To add to this, supporters I've talked to insist "emergency socialism" isn't a newly coined up idea, but has deep historical context in the many decades since the Industrial Revolution.

Given that I haven't heard it before, nor does a cursory search with Google yield any relevant Wikipedia page on the matter, is "emergency socialism" a neologism, or does it have significant and deeper historical context?

  • As a stimulus measure, sending a (physical) check to the "average Joe" is not incredibly new. Bush did it too, he just called it a tax cut.
    – Fizz
    Mar 18 '20 at 23:26
  • N.B. the somewhat more appropriate term might be "helicopter money", but there are some conflicting meanings for that term.
    – Fizz
    Mar 21 '20 at 10:37

Google n-gram search finds zero mentioning of the term "Emergency Socialism" in any English literature since 1800. So it indeed appears to be a neologism.

But this does of course not say anything about whether or not it is appropriate to use socialist policies in response to a crisis situation. This is a matter of debate which should be settled by arguing about the outcomes, not by arguing about language.


Depends what you mean by "an actual term". Any piece of language that is in use has been coined ( or "cooked up") by someone. that doesn't stop it from being an actual term.

The term "emergency socialism" seems to have some very limited currency prior to this year, for example in a document from 2017, dicussing the history of Socialism in the UK:

The desirability of some form of ‘emergency’ socialism with a dictatorial colouring briefly won a broader range of labour movement adherents in grim crisis years of the early 1930s (including Clement Attlee), but never since.


This seems to refer to the belief that in an "emergency" (such as a fascist/bourgoise alliance taking over the government of the UK) then a worker's revolution could be followed by a period of proletarian dictatorship. Emergency socialism is, therefore, the imposition of socialism to address an emergency.

Clive Lewis MP said that the Green New Deal can’t just be about “tinkering” and instead called for “emergency socialism”, which he described as a “whole new political economy”.

Lewis urged for the UK to show international leadership as one of the first countries to industrialise, adding that trade and foreign policy “need to be part of the Green New Deal.”


Likewise, in this article from last year, "emergency socialism" is a socialism intended to address a particular emergency (climate change) instead of a general worker's movement.

Note that both these sources use quote marks, indicating that there is little currency in the term "emergency socialism".


It's a term and it has been used

Steve Benen of NBC News used it recently

And finally, it's worth pausing to marvel at the right's occasional embrace of what I like to call "emergency socialism." Under emergency socialism, those opposed to socialism quietly put aside their entire political philosophy because of the urgency of the circumstances and the merits of socialistic ideas.

The broader point he's making there is that Republicans and Conservatives tend to shrink from government handouts and "socialized medicine"

It matters, for example, that if Republicans are comfortable with a socialized system for the coronavirus, they could eventually be equally comfortable with such a system for other serious ailments.

It's not clear how widely known this term is

Beyond that one author (he used it in another article on the same site), I can't find any other widespread usages on the Internet. Usage is scattershot and not always related to the current issue.

  • 1
    Historical context would imply that the term has been used in past history and not relatively recently (that's just a few weeks ago).
    – yuritsuki
    Mar 18 '20 at 22:32
  • @yuritsuki Your question was What my question is though is, does this term actually exist? and the answer is "Yes, but only recently." You should edit your question if you want only historical references, and what you consider to be historical
    – Machavity
    Mar 19 '20 at 1:32

The phrase exists in the sense that some people are using it with (between them if not the rest of us) some common or consensus understanding of what it means. That's how language works. One can grasp the meaning from the context too.

If you mean something like, "is it new or has it been in use for some time or how common is it?", you can use resources such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, Google Ngrams, search engines etc to try to establish that. If you mean something like, "is it simply a caricature or straw man invented by The Other Side?" you can get a sense of that too.

To me, it is a new phrase that is presently in far from common use and not by Trump supporters but one or two left-leaning journalists lightly mocking right-leaning supporters of such measures.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .