About capitalism

The word capitalism gets bandied about all over the place, so we really need a clear idea of its meaning.

Put simply, it’s just the latest way that humanity has devised to produce the things we need to live. A more accurate term would be ‘the capitalist form of production’, but that’s a real mouthful, so we’ll just call it capitalism for now.

It has 2 key features.

It’s a class-divided system

Which side of the divide you are on goes a long way towards explaining what happens in your life.

On one side there’s a small minority, the capitalists. Currently, they control the productive resources (land, factories, transport, etc.), either as private owners or via the state as part of a political clique.

The vast majority are on the other side of the divide – doing all the useful work but having no such control over productive resources. So they’re forced to work for a wage or salary to survive.

Profit motive

Some earlier forms of production were class-based too, but what make capitalism different from all the rest is the profit motive, the sole driver in the current system.

Nothing is made if there is no prospect of profit.

(You might object that this doesn’t apply to roads, hospitals, schools, etc. But these are services that the entire capitalist class needs to keep their system running – in many parts of the world they outsource such services to the state.)

The strength of capitalism is evident. In an amazingly short time, it has become the dominant form of production all over the world. It has driven technological advances to take productive capabilities to a level that would have been unthinkable even in the most recent past.

So what’s not to like? For a start, it’s an economic unstable system.

Economic instability ➡️

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