The effort to incorporate democracy into socialist frameworks taught those engaged in the project that the same task applied to capitalism. Systemic differences had blinded the 20th century to some basic similarities between capitalism and conventional socialisms. One key similarity is the internal structure or organization of workplaces and the related nature of the relationship between workplaces and the state. In both systems — recognizing all their variations — workplaces are organized in a starkly undemocratic manner. As socialists moved toward democratizing workplaces, socialism itself changed, resulting in the emergence of a major new socialist tendency at the close of the 20th century.
Through these lessons, a growing number of socialists have come to focus on worker cooperatives as a means to achieve tangible economic democracy. Such socialists reject master/slave, lord/serf, and employer/employee relationships because these all preclude real democracy. Socialist proponents of worker cooperatives seek to construct alternative workplaces that specifically avoid all such dichotomies. They do so in the name of ending the inequalities these dichotomies have always fostered and promoting the democracy such dichotomies have always refused. The goal is a transition away from all employer/employee workplace organizations toward those in which employees are also — simultaneously and collectively — employers. This new kind of socialism thus champions worker cooperatives where workers function democratically as their own employers.