What Is Capitalism?

Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all newformed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life and his relation with his kind.

- Karl Marx, Manifesto of the Communist Party

Podcast of the Day

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss capitalism throughout the last two centuries. In 1848 Karl Marx in The Communist Manifesto described the dynamic force of capitalism as it swept through the 19th century: Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation. ‘All that is solid melts into air’. Was Karl Marx, in criticizing capitalism, actually responsible for defining it? From Marx’s critique of capitalism in the 19th Century through to the collapse of Communism at the end of the twentieth century, have we witnessed the triumph of capitalism? Or are we only now learning the full costs and the social impact of unfettered capitalism?

Listen to the In Our Time episode on Capitalism

Video of the Day

Short Article of the Day

Being a libertarian means opposing the use of force to restrain peaceful, voluntary exchange. That doesn’t mean it should be understood as involving support for capitalism.

Whether this claim makes any sense at all depends, of course, on what you mean by “capitalism.” For some people, perhaps, the term just refers to free exchange. And if that’s all you intend when you talk about “capitalism,” you’re quite right that there’s no real conflict between what you’re talking about and a sensible libertarianism.

But people very often have some other senses of the word in mind when they employ it. For instance: mainstream print and electronic media regularly use “capitalism” to refer to “the economic system we have now.” And it’s relatively common to hear “capitalism” employed as a synonym for “dominance of workplaces and society by capitalists—by the owners of substantial capital assets.” Libertarian principles as I understand them entail support for capitalism in neither of these senses....

Continue reading Gary Chartier's article: Embracing Markets, Opposing "Capitalism"

Further Reading

Capitalism is an economic system and an ideology based on private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit. Characteristics central to capitalism include private property, capital accumulation, wage labor, voluntary exchange, a price system and competitive markets. In a capitalist market economy, decision-making and investment are determined by the owners of the factors of production in financial and capital markets, whereas prices and the distribution of goods are mainly determined by competition in the market.

Economists, political economists, sociologists, and historians have adopted different perspectives in their analyses of capitalism and have recognized various forms of it in practice. These include laissez-faire or free market capitalism, welfare capitalism and state capitalism....

Continue reading the Wikipedia article on Capitalism

Related Topics

Economics | Equality | Justice | Freedom | Globalization | Greed | PowerSociology


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