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An I.W.W. poster critiquing Capitalism by showing the class system

Capitalism is the organization of the global economy so that so that all significant means of production of goods and services are owned and controlled by private companies and wealthy individuals. Capitalists, also known as the Bourgeoisie by Marxists,[1] are opposed to socialist economic systems favoured by leftists like socialists and communists which are controlled by and function for the benefit of The People. The ideology of capitalism is the antithesis of communist and revolutionary theory and is the main opponent of the argument for communist progression.

Under the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie capitalists control the global economy[2] and through control of nation states, the social structure and the means of production.
The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.[3]
The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.[3]

Capitalist describes an ideological supporter of the system as well as an individual or organization which owns and deploys a substantial amount of capital in production of goods or services[4].

Characteristics of capitalism

For a more technical account of the Marxian theory see also Capitalist mode of production.

Capitalism is a dynamic economic system which, ideally, rewards innovation and efficient production and produces a cornucopia of physical and intellectual products greatly enriching human life. But it has a sinister side: it produces inequality and insecurity, it manipulates human consciousness to serve capital, and its accumulative drive is uncontrolled by any overarching human reason. Because of the latter feature it is crisis prone and is now degrading the Earth's biosphere in a seemingly unstoppable fashion in defiance of widespread concern.

The history of capitalism has featured an attempt to reconcile the benefits of capitalism with the public resistance arising from its baneful effects by creation of a welfare state which provides a minimum floor on income. In the 21st century globalization has disrupted this arrangement resulting in growing inequality and public dissatisfaction.[5]
The bourgeoisie has, through its exploitation of the world market, given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of reactionaries, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilized nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations.[6]

Legal foundation

The legal foundations of capitalism, "Free Trade", the reduction of all human interactions into commodities, enshrined in the Constitution of the United States, but inherent in the constitutional structure of all capitalist states, are "liberty", the "sanctity of contract" and "property rights". These principles authorize and protect systemic binding of obligation and privilege and exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie.

Capitalist politics

Capitalists have split political tendencies, liberalism and conservatism, although both strongly support capitalism and have a history of suppressing socialism. Liberals such as the mainstream financiers who support the Democratic Party in the United States believe in rule by an enlightened elite which adequately manages the capitalist economy so that the working class has a standard of living above absolute poverty. This tendency may be seen in certain organizations such as the British Labour Party, The New York Times, CBS News, the Council on Foreign Relations, or the World Bank. Liberals are aware of the dynamics of capitalism revealed by Karl Marx's work and take his warnings seriously, attempting to avoid excessive concentration of capital and excessive unemployment. Conservatives, on the other hand, dismiss such considerations as nonsense and proceed aggressively to concentrate power in their own hands and engage in active oppression of any sign of working class organization. Conservatives often align themselves politically with backward, reactionary elements such as religious fundamentalists and nationalists. Either tendency is prepared to employ the mechanisms of a police state, war and terrorism to retard working class organizing and to violently oppose rule by socialists, or even reformers, of any tendency. Generally, successful revolutions, or socialist governments that are democratically elected, remain in power only if capitalist forces are exhausted or distracted due to major global disruptions such as World War I in the case of the October Revolution and the Great Depression and World War II in the case of the Chinese Civil War.


As Karl Marx shows in The Communist Manifesto, capitalism creates two primary social classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.[7] Capitalistic control of the economy is the cause of this class disparity and the alienation of the workers from the means of production:
...the peasant, the artisan, the lawyer and the man of science are stripped of their halo and reduced to nothing more than a paid wage slave"


  1. Marxists
  2. "Imperialism and the Split in Socialism" V.I. Lenin, October 1916, published in Sbornik Sotsial-Demokrata No. 2, December 1916. Signed: N. Lenin. Published according to the Sbornik text. Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 23, pages 105-120. Translated: M. S. Levin, The Late Joe Fineberg and and Others. Transcription: Zodiac HTML Markup: B. Baggins and D. Walters. In the Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive 1996(z), (bb,dw),. You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Page 15, Chapter 1, The Communist Manifesto from Marx/Engels Selected Works, Vol. One, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1969
  4. WordNet
  5. "Capitalism and Inequality: What the Right and the Left Get Wrong" essay by Jerry Z. Muller in Foreign Affairs March/April
  6. Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto

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