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The new community which the capitalists are now constructing will be a very complete and absolute community; and one which will tolerate nothing really independent of itself. ~ G. K. Chesterton 1917

Capitalism generally refers to an economic system in which means of production are mostly privately owned, and in which capital is invested in the production, distribution and/or other trade of goods and services for profit in a largely unregulated market.

CONTENT: A-B - C-D - E-F - G-H - I-J - K-L - M-N - O-P -Q-R - S-T - U-V - W-X - Y-Z - See also - External links


Alphabetized by author or source


  • [Capitalism is] an economic system based on private, rather than state, ownership of businesses, factories, transport services, etc, with free competition and profit-making.
    • Lemma "Capitalism", 2006
  • But if capitalism had built up science as a productive force, the very character of the new mode of production was serving to make capitalism itself unnecessary.
  • [Capitalism is a] mode of socio-economic organization in which a class of entrepeneurs and entrepeneurial institutions provide the capital with which businesses produce goods and services and employ workers. In return the capitalist extracts profits from the goods created. Capitalism is frequently seen as the embodiment of the market economy, and hence may result in the optimum distribution of scarce resources, with a resulting improvement for all; this optimism is countered by pointing to the opportunity for exploitation inherent in the system.
    • Simon Blackburn ed. (1996) Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. Lemma "Capitalism"
  • The United States is the Darwinist capital of the capitalist world. A head afraid is a head haunted. A head haunted is a head hunted. Run for your life. Run from the guillotine to a head hunter who saves your head and raises your salary — so you’ll be caught in the red of the fish-market buying gadgets to distract your fragile imagination that is cut in the red market of blood—running and escaping — running again — changing your resume to update the fear you feel of being unemployed tomorrow — in the streets — and from there to welfare — and from there to begging.


  • [Capitalism is] an economic system based on private ownership of property and business, with the goal of making the greatest possible profits for the owners.
    • Cambridge University Press (2008) Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary Paperback with CD-ROM. p. 129. Lemma "Capitalism"
  • The new community which the capitalists are now constructing will be a very complete and absolute community; and one which will tolerate nothing really independent of itself.
  • The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.
  • The French Revolution qualitatively transformed all aspects of human culture, including science, for better or worse. The institutional ideological changes wrought in French science by the Revolution and its aftermath shaped the subsequent course of modern science everywhere. The essential underlying factor, as the Hessen thesis maintains, was the victory of capitalism, which the Revolution consolidated. The new social order spread to Europe and the rest of the world, everywhere subordinating the further development of science to capitalist interests.
    • Clifford D. Conner, A People's History of Science (2005)
  • [Capitalism is] an economic system in which
    (1) private ownership of property exists;
    (2) aggregates of property or capital provide income for the individuals or firms that accumulated it and own it;
    (3) individuals and firms are relatively free to compete with others for their own economic gain;
    (4) the profit motive is basic to economic life.
    Among the synonyms for capitalism are LAISSEZ-FAIRE economy, private enterpreise system, and free-price system. In this context economy is interchangeable with system."
    • John Downes (2003) Barron's Finance and Investment Handbook. p. 258. Lemma "Capitalism"


  • The winner, at least for now, of the battle of economic “isms”. Capitalism is a free-market system built on private ownership, in particular, the idea that owners of CAPITAL have PROPERTY RIGHTS that entitle them to earn a PROFIT as a reward for putting their capital at RISK in some form of economic activity. Opinion (and practice) differs considerably among capitalist countries about what role the state should play in the economy. But everyone agrees that, at the very least, for capitalism to work the state must be strong enough to guarantee property rights. According to Karl MARX, capitalism contains the seeds of its own destruction, but so far this has proved a more accurate description of Marx’s progeny, COMMUNISM.
    • Lemma "Capitalism", 2006
  • This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. … An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.
  • The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labour...I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals.
  • Capitalism, also called free market economy, or free enterprise economy: economic system, dominant in the Western world since the breakup of feudalism, in which most of the means of production are privately owned and production is guided and income distributed largely through the operation of markets.
    • Encyclopaedia Britannica, inc (1998) The New Encyclopaedia Britannica Vol 2; Vol 8. p. 831. Lemma "Capitalism"
  • [Capitalism is] the socio-economic system where social relations are based on commodities for exchange, in particular private ownership of the means of production and on the exploitation of wage labour. Wage labour is the labour process in capitalist society: the owners of the means of production (the bourgeoisie) buy the labour power of those who do not own the means of production (the proletariat), and use it to increase the value of their property (capital)...
    • Encyclopedia of Marxism. at, 1999-2008. Lemma "Capitalism". (online)
  • The possibility of co-ordination through voluntary co-operation rests on the elementary - yet frequently denied - proposition that both parties to an economic transaction benefit from it, provided the transaction is bi-laterally voluntary and informed. Exchange can therefore bring about co-ordination without coercion. A working model of a society organized through voluntary exchange is a free private enterprise exchange economy - what we have been calling competitive capitalism.


  • Capitalism is based on self-interest and self-esteem; it holds integrity and trustworthiness as cardinal virtues and makes them pay off in the marketplace, thus demanding that men survive by means of virtue, not vices. It is this superlatively moral system that the welfare statists propose to improve upon by means of preventative law, snooping bureaucrats, and the chronic goad of fear.
  • [Harvey defined capitalism in terms of three features: it is growth-oriented] a steady state of growth is essential for the health of a capitalist economic system... growth in real values rests on the exploitation of living labor in production... [and it is] necessarily technologically and organizationally dynamic.
  • An economic system based on private, rather than state, ownership of businesses, factories, transport services, etc, with free competition and profit-making.
    • Elaine Higgleton, Howard Sargeant, Anne Seaton (1992) Chambers Pocket Dictionary. p. 128. Lemma "Capitalism"
  • It is probably true that business corrupts everything it touches. It corrupts politics, sports, literature, art, labor unions and so on. But business also corrupts and undermines monolithic totalitarianism. Capitalism is at its liberating best in a noncapitalist environment.
    • Eric Hoffer, "Thoughts of Eric Hoffer, Including: 'Absolute Faith Corrupts Absolutely'", The New York Times Magazine (April 25, 1971), p. 50.


  • I understand that you have an economic system in America known as Capitalism. Through this economic system you have been able to do wonders. You have become the richest nation in the world, and you have built up the greatest system of production that history has ever known. All of this is marvelous. But Americans, there is the danger that you will misuse your Capitalism. I still contend that money can be the root of all evil. It can cause one to live a life of gross materialism. I am afraid that many among you are more concerned about making a living than making a life. You are prone to judge the success of your profession by the index of your salary and the size of the wheel base on your automobile, rather than the quality of your service to humanity.
The misuse of Capitalism can also lead to tragic exploitation. This has so often happened in your nation. They tell me that one tenth of one percent of the population controls more than forty percent of the wealth. Oh America, how often have you taken necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes. If you are to be a truly Christian nation you must solve this problem. You cannot solve the problem by turning to communism, for communism is based on an ethical relativism and a metaphysical materialism that no Christian can accept. You can work within the framework of democracy to bring about a better distribution of wealth. You can use your powerful economic resources to wipe poverty from the face of the earth. God never intended for one group of people to live in superfluous inordinate wealth, while others live in abject deadening poverty. God intends for all of his children to have the basic necessities of life, and he has left in this universe "enough and to spare" for that purpose. So I call upon you to bridge the gulf between abject poverty and superfluous wealth.
  • [Capitalism is an] economic system characterized by the following: private property ownership exists; individuals and companies are allowed to compete for their own economic gain; and free market forces determine the prices of goods and services.
    • Lemma "Capitalism". 2006


  • The decadent international but individualistic capitalism, in the hands of which we found ourselves after the War, is not a success. It is not intelligent, it is not beautiful, it is not just, it is not virtuous - and it doesn't deliver the goods. In short, we dislike it and we are beginning to despise it. But when we wonder what to put in its place, we are extremely perplexed.
  • To judge by the current arrangement in corporate America, one might suppose capital creates wealth - which is odd, because a pile of capital sitting there creates nothing. Yet capital-providers (stockholders) lay claim to most of the wealth that public corporations generate. They also claim the more fundamental right to have corporations managed on their behalf. Corporations are believed to exist for one purpose alone: to maximize returns to shareholders. This principle is reinforced by CEOs, the Wall Street Journal, business schools, and the courts. It is the law of the land - much as the divine right of kings was once the law of the land. Indeed, "maximizing returns to shareholders" is universally accepted as a kind of divine, unchallengeable mandate.
  • Major public corporations have evolved into something new in civilization, structures more massive, more dominant in the world than our democratic forefathers dreamed possible. They left us little guidance on governing these institutions - the word "corporation" appears nowhere in the Constitution - because only a handful of American corporations existed when that seminal document was written. Washington and Jefferson governed a nation of farmers, in which most nonagricultural businesses were indeed "private," run out of the parlor, or in the barn, as part of the private household.
  • In the current narrative of the corporation, it works like this: A corporation exists to generate profit. Profit belongs to stockholders, but they leave part of it in the corporation to fund growth. So a portion (about a third) is paid out as dividends, and the rest is kept as retained earnings. Those earnings are generated by the income statement, and retained on the balance sheet, where they are added to shareholder equity. Equity is what stockholders initially contributed when they purchased shares from the company. And by the magical closed loop of accounting, equity grows, year after year, while stockholders never contribute another cent out of their pocket.
  • Ergo- Stockholders "create wealth" without lifting a finger.
  • I worked at a factory owned by Germans, at coal pits owned by Frenchmen, and at a chemical plant owned by Belgians. There I discovered something about capitalists. They are all alike, whatever the nationality. All they wanted from me was the most work for the least money that kept me alive. So I became a communist.
  • My claim is that we do not have a market economy, but a capitalist economy. Capitalism and the market are presented as synonymous, but they are not. Capitalism is both the enemy of the market and democracy. Capitalism is not about free competitive choices among people who are reasonable equal in their buying and selling of economic power. It is about concentrating capital, concentrating economic power in very few hands, using that power to trash everyone who gets in their way. … This is not a market, and definitely not a democracy. The basic principle of democracy is "one person one vote" and in the capitalistic society, we have "one dollar one vote."
    • David Korten, in an interview with Alexander M. Duke, as quoted in Globalization and After (2006) edited by Samir Dasgupta and Ray Kiely, p. 32
  • In the 1980s capitalism triumphed over communism. In the 1990s it triumphed over democracy and the market economy.
    • David Korten, in The Post Corporate World : Life After Capitalism (1999)
  • For over a century, popular struggles in the democracies have used the nation-state to temper raw capitalism. The power of voters has offset the power of capital. But as national barriers have come down in the name of freer commerce, so has the capacity of governments to manage capitalism in a broad public interest. So the real issue is not 'trade' but democratic governance.
    • Robert Kuttner, "Globalization and Its Critics", The American Prospect, vol. 12 no. 12, July 2-16, 2001


  • [Capitalism is] a system of wage-labour and commodity production for sale, exchange, and profit, rather than for the immediate need of the producers."
    • Gordon Marshall ed. The Oxford Dictionary of Sociology, 2nd edition. Lemma "Capitalism"
  • In bourgeois society capital is independent and has individuality, while the living person is dependent and has no individuality.
    • Karl Marx, The Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848)
  • [Capitalism is] a system which separates workers from any property rights in the means by which they produce culture by their labor. The system transforms the social means of subsistence into capital on the one hand and the immediate producers into wage laborers on the other hand. Most of the time, capitalism is defined as the private ownership of the means of production but that definition does not encompass the great harm done to humanity by the system. By claiming all (or most) of the means to produce culture as private property, a small class of owners preempts material culture to their own comfort while denying the vast majority the means to subsistence as well as the means to produce ideological culture when they are not working.
    • Robert E. Mazur Dictionary of Critical Sociology. Lemma "Capitalism"
  • [Capitalism is] an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market."
    • Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary 11th Edition:. Lemma "Capitalism"
  • It is true that the materialistic society, the so-called culture that has evolved under the tender mercies of capitalism, has produced what seems to be the ultimate limit of this worldliness. And nowhere, except perhaps in the analogous society of pagan Rome, has there ever been such a flowering of cheap and petty and disgusting lusts and vanities as in the world of capitalism, where there is no evil that is not fostered and encouraged for the sake of making money. We live in a society whose whole policy is to excite every nerve in the human body and keep it at the highest pitch of artificial tension, to strain every human desire to the limit and to create as many new desires and synthetic passions as possible, in order to cater to them with the products of our factories and printing presses and movie studios and all the rest.
  • All people, however fanatical they may be in their zeal to disparage and to fight capitalism, implicitly pay homage to it by passionately clamoring for the products it turns out.
    • Ludwig Von Mises, The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science: An Essay on Method (1978)
  • The first condition for the establishment of perpetual peace is the general adoption of the principles of laissez-faire capitalism.
    • Ludwig von Mises, The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science: An Essay on Method (1962), p. 137
  • [Capitalism is a] free-market system: an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and distribution of goods, characterized by a free competitive market and motivation by profit"
    • MS Encarta: Lemma "Capitalism", 2006
  • [Capitalism is] the condition of possessing capital; the position of a capitalist; a system which favours the existence of capitalists.
    • Sir James Augustus Henry Murray, Henry Bradley, Philological Society (1933) 'The 'Oxford English Dictionary. Vol 2. p. 94 Lemma "Capitalism"
  • What I really believe in, first and foremost, isn't capitalism or globalization. It isn't the systems or regulatory codes that achieve all we see around us in the way of prosperity, innovation, community, and culture. Those things are created by people. What I believe in is man's capacity for achieving great things, and the combined force that results from our interactions and exchanges. I plead for greater liberty and a more open world, not because I believe on system happens to be more efficient than another, but because those things provide a setting that unleashes individual creativity as no other system can. They spur the dynamism that has led to human, economic, scientific, and technical advances. Believing in capitalism does not mean believing in growth, the economy, or efficiency. Desirable as they may be, those are only the results. At its core, belief in capitalism is belief in mankind.


  • [Capitalism is] an economic system in which capital (the goods or wealth used to produce other goods for profit) is privately owned and profit is reinvested so as to accumulate capital. The dynamics of the economic exchange in capitalism are unique. In a barter system of economic activity a producer may grow a pound of potatoes and barter them for an equivalent amount of honey produced by someone else. In this exchange the goods bartered are of roughly equal value. In capitalism, however, a person uses capital to produce goods and then sells those goods for cash. The amount of cash received is greater than the value of the good produced such that a profit is created allowing for reinvestment in the capital stock and to support the owner and producers.
    • Online Dictionary of the Social Sciences: Lemma "Capitalism". 2006
  • Blake was not a politician, but there is more understanding of the nature of capitalist society in a poem like "I wander through each charter'd street" than in three-quarters of Socialist literature.
  • [Capitalism is] an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.
    • Judy Pearsall (2002) The Concise Oxford English Dictionary. p. 207 Lemma "Capitalism"
  • The essence of capitalism is to turn nature into commodities and commodities into capital. The live green earth is transformed into dead gold bricks, with luxury items for the few and toxic slag heaps for the many. The glittering mansion overlooks a vast sprawl of shanty towns, wherein a desperate, demoralized humanity is kept in line with drugs, television, and armed force.


  • What they have to discover, what all the efforts of capitalism's enemies are frantically aimed at hiding, is the fact that capitalism is not merely the 'practical,' but the only moral system in history.
    • Ayn Rand, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1966), p. 8
  • When I say capitalism, I mean a full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez faire capitalism, with a separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.
    • Ayn Rand, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1966), p. 17
  • Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned.
  • In a capitalist society, all human relationships are voluntary. Men are free to cooperate or not, to deal with one another or not, as their own individual judgments, convictions and interests dictate.
  • Businessmen are the one group that distinguishes capitalism and the American way of life from the totalitarian statism that is swallowing the rest of the world. All the other social groups — workers, farmers, professional men, scientists, soldiers — exist under dictatorships, even though they exist in chains, in terror, in misery, and in progressive self-destruction. But there is no such group as businessmen under a dictatorship. Their place is taken by armed thugs: by bureaucrats and commissars. Businessmen are the symbol of a free society — the symbol of America.
    • Ayn Rand (1967), Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, p. 55
  • [Capitalism is] an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, esp. as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.
    • Random House Webster's college dictionary. (1991) p. 202: Lemma "Capitalism"
  • [Capitalism is] an economic system in which land and means of production, as factories, are owned mainly by private individuals or companies rathen than by the government, and there is competition among businesses: The economic system of the U.S. is based on capitalism
    • Random House School Dictionary, 1990: Lemma "Capitalism"
  • [Capitalism is] a system of economy based on free enterprise with minimum interference by government; an economic system in which the bulk of the means of production (e.g. the production facilities and the capital) and the means of distribution (marketing facilities and systems) of goods and services are privately owned and operated; or a system of economic activity whereby the individual uses his talents and/or capital for the purposes of earning a profit. The paraphrase one economist, it is a system of incentive and work for profit; a system of "two cows and one bull," not the other way around."
    • Raymond, Walter. J. Dictionary of Politics: Selected American and Foreign Political and Legal Terms, Brunswick Publishing (2002), p. 71. Lemma "Capitalism"
  • Capitalism is organised crime, and we are all its victims.
    • Refused, The Shape of Punk to Come
  • Capitalism is a social system based on private ownership of the means of production. It is characterized by the pursuit of material self-interest under freedom and it rests on a foundation of the cultural influence of reason. Based on its foundations and essential nature, capitalism is further characterized by saving and capital accumulation, exchange and money, financial self-interest and the profit motive, the freedoms of economic competition and economic inequality, the price system, economic progress, and a harmony of the material self-interests of all the individuals who participate in it.
  • [Capitalism is] an economic system based on private ownership, competition, and a free market
    • Philip M Rideout (2000) The Newbury House dictionary of American English. Heinle Publishers Inc, p. 108: Lemma "Capitalism"
  • 1. An economic system, marked by open competition in a free market, in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporated owned and development is proportionate to the accumulation and reinvestment of profits.
    2. A political or social system considered to be based on capitalism.
    • Riverside Publishing Company (1984) Webster's II new Riverside university dictionary. p. 227. Lemma "Capitalism"
  • We must first decide what the meaning of the term 'capitalism' really is. Unfortunately, the term 'capitalism' was coined by its greatest and most famous enemy, Karl Marx. We really can't rely upon him for correct and subtle usage. And, in fact, what Marx and later writers have done is to lump together two extremely different and even contradictory concepts and actions under the same portmanteau term. These two contradictory concepts are what I would call 'free-market capitalism' on the one hand, and 'state capitalism' on the other. The difference between free-market capitalism and state capitalism is precisely the difference between, on the one hand, peaceful, voluntary exchange, and on the other, violent expropriation.
  • Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate.
  • I dislike Communism because it is undemocratic, and capitalism because it favors exploitation.


  • It is the cheap cloth, the cheap cotton and rayon fabric, boots, motorcars and so on that are the typical achievements of capitalist production, and not as a rule improvements that would mean much to the rich man. Queen Elisabeth owned silk stockings. The capitalist achievement does not typically consist in providing more silk stockings for queens but in bringing them within the reach of factory girls in return for steadily decreasing amounts of effort.
    • Joseph Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (1950, 3rd ed.), part II, chapter VII, p. 82.
  • Capitalist civilization is rationalistic 'and anti-heroic.' The two go together of course. Success in industry and commerce requires a lot of stamina, yet industrial and commercial activity is essentially unheroic in the knight's sense — no flourishing of swords about it, not much physical prowess, no chance to gallop the armored horse into the enemy, preferably a heretic or heathen - and the ideology that glorifies the idea of fighting for fighting's sake and of victory for victory's sake understandably withers in the office among all the columns of figures. Therefore, owning assets that are apt to attract the robber or the tax gatherer and not sharing or even disliking warrior ideology that conflicts with its 'rational' utilitarianism, the industrial and commercial bourgeouis is fundamentally pacifist and inclined to insist on the moral application of the moral precepts of private life to international relations. It is true that, unlike most but like other features of capitalist civilization, pacifism and international morality have also been espoused in non-capitalist environments and by pre-capitalist agencies, in the Middle Ages of the Roman Church for instance. Modern pacifism and modern international morality are nonetheless products of capitalism.
    • Joseph Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (1950, 3rd ed.), part II, chapter XI, p. 127f.
  • As we know, socialism is calculational chaos. Rational appraisement and allocation are eternally elusive. It is a gigantic negative-sum game in which each player quickly grabs a piece of the pie, and all the while the pie shrinks before the players' eyes. The welfare/warfare state, the interventionist state, is no improvement. Each intervention begets yet another. Bureaucracy is the only 'industry' guaranteed to experience growth. Each new regulation taxes the private sector, relentlessly shifting resources out of the hands of the productive, and into the hands of the unproductive. Capitalism is the only positive-sum game in town.
    • Larry J. Sechrest, "The Anti-Capitalists: Barbarians at the Gate" (15 March 2008)
  • Capitalism has destroyed our belief in any effective power but that of self interest backed by force. But even Capitalist cynicism will admit that however unconscionable we may be when our own interests are affected, we can be most indignantly virtuous at the expense of others.
    • George Bernard Shaw, in The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism (1928), p. 214.
  • You have to choose (as a voter) between trusting to the natural stability of gold and the natural stability of the honesty and intelligence of the members of the Government. And, with due respect for these gentlemen, I advise you, as long as the Capitalist system lasts, to vote for gold.
    • George Bernard Shaw, in The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism (1928), p. 263.
  • [Capitalism is] an economic system of government in which 1) private ownership of property exists; 2) CAPITAL ownership can provide income to the owners; 3) relative freedom of competition for economic gain is permitted; 4) the profit motive is basic to economic life. Also called FREE ENTERPRISE SYSTEM."
    • Lemma "Capitalism", 2006
  • Capitalism designates an economic system significantly characterized by the predominance of "capital." Capitalism and double entry bookkeeping are absolutely indissociable; their relationship to each other is that of form to content.
  • Because the West has a property rights system, and property rights systems seem to be about ownership. What we're discovering more and more is that it's really the system that undergirds the system of values called capitalism. In other words, you have property rights in the West. In developing nations we do, too, but they're not legal. Once you legalize them and you have recordkeeping systems and you have tracking systems and you've got contracts and you're able to get all the information about somebody's ownership over an asset, all of a sudden you obtain enormous amounts of data that you do not have in developing nations. In the West, that is captured in the property system. If you are somebody that is honorable and pays their debts, which is what somebody would be interested in, that's going to be captured in your records, and your records are linked to your property records. All of these are property rights, [but we don't have them] organized in a central system … in Third World countries.
  • Grotesque sentiments such as the lust of business success or economic power of any kind, and indeed every purely self-regarding passion, from that of the social climber to that of the salvation-seeking ascetic, are experienced by the explorer with something of that shame which the child, emerging into adolescence, may feel toward the still-clinging fascination of his outgrown toys, or with such disgust as the youth may feel when he wakes from some unworthy sexual infatuation.
  • Capitalism prospers in an environment with a peculiar combination of self-interested behavior - enough to induce individuals to look for profitable activities - and non-self-interested behavior, where one's word is one's honor, where social rather than economic sanctions suffice to enforce contracts.
  • It is the fundamental wisdom of the capitalist system that it functions irrespective of the wisdom or the stupidity of the capitalists.
    • Gustav Stolper, in This Age of Fables (1942), Part I, Ch. 8, Sec. 10, p. 167
  • [Capitalism is] an economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned and development is proportionate to the accumulation and reinvestment of profits gained in a free market.
    • The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition: Lemma "Capitalism"
  • [Capitalism is] 1. The state of having capital or property; possession of capital. 2. The concentration or massing of capital in the hands of a few; also, the power or influence of large or combined capital.
    • The Century Dictionary. 1909 edition: Lemma "Capitalism"
  • [Capitalism is] an economic and political system characterized by a free market for goods and services and private control of production and consumption.
    • The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition: Lemma "Capitalism"
  • [Capitalism is] an economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately owned, and prices are chiefly determined by open competition in a free market.
    • The Wordsmyth Educational Dictionary-Thesaurus on, 2013: Lemma "Capitalism"


  • Production for sale in a market in which the object is to realize the maximum profit is the essential feature of a capitalist world-economy. In such a system production is constantly expanded as long as further production is profitable, and men constantly innovate new ways of producing things that will expand the profit margin.
  • We will define a capitalistic economic action as one which rests on the expectation of profit by the utilization of opportunities for exchange, that is on (formally) peaceful chances of profit...Unlimited greed for gain is not in the least identical with capitalism, and is still less its spirit. Capitalism may even be identical with the restraint, or at least a rational tempering, of this irrational impulse. But capitalism is identical with the pursuit of profit, and forever renewed profit, by means of conscious, rational, capitalistic enterprise.
    • Max Weber The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
  • [Capitalism is] the economic system in which all or most of the means of production and distribution, as land, factories, railroads, etc., are privately owned and operated for profit, originally under fully competitive conditions: it has been generally characterized by a tendency toward concentration of wealth, and, in its later phase, by the growth of great corporations, increased government control, etc.
    • Webster's New World College Dictionary, 3rd Edition:. Lemma "Capitalism"
  • [Capitalism is] an economic system characterized by private or corporation ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision rather than by state control, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly in a free market."
    • Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary. (1969). p. 124. Lemma "Capitalism"
  • The struggle between the opponents and defenders of capitalism is a struggle between innovators who do not know what innovation to make and conservatives who do not know what to conserve.
  • [Wolf defines capitalism in terms of] three intertwined characteristics: First, capitalists detain control of the means of production. Second, laborers are denied independent access to means of production and must sell their labor power to the capitalists. Third, the maximalization of surplus produced by the laborers with the means of production owned by the capitalists entails "ceaseless accumulation accompanied by changes in the methods of production.
    • Eric Wolf Europe and the People Without History. p. 78 cited in: Sweezy 1942: 94; Mandel 1978, 103-107.
  • [Capitalism is] an economic system in which land, factories, and other resources are owned by individuals instead of the government. In this system, goods are sold for the purpose of making money."
    • Wordsmyth Children's Dictionary: Lemma "Capitalism"


  • Capitalism has always been a failure for the lower classes. It is now beginning to fail for the middle classes.
    • Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States, 1995 edition, chapter 23

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