Is this utopia? Utopian visionaries imagine a society in which people work together cooperatively and to the community's benefit.

William Kay Blackstock/Fine Art Photographic/Getty Images

Many people wonder what heaven is like -- so many, in fact, that philosophers and scholars over the years have hypothesized about how heaven on Earth can be achieved. The term "utopia" was coined in 1515 by British writer Thomas More. Utopia describes a perfect place or society, where everyone is equal socially and economically.

The political and economic theory of socialism was created with the vision of a utopian society in mind. Contrary to other economic systems, there is no real consensus on how the ideal socialist society should function. Dozens of forms of socialism exist, all with differing ideas about economic planning, community size and many other factors. Despite the variations in socialist thought, every version advocates the benefits of cooperation among the people, steering clear of the "evils" of competition associated with capitalism.

So how does socialism compare to capitalism and communism? And were there ever any successful socialist societies? Is the movement still alive today? In the next section, we'll take a look at the principles of the theory.