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What is Capitalism ?

+6 votes
One of the most basic ideas that form a foundation for anarchists, anarchism, and/or anarchy is the notion of anti-capitalism. But, with so many confused about basic understandings of anarchist ideas, what is capitalism ? How does one explain a basic comprehension of what capitalism is and why they are against it ?

I ask this question with a multi-faceted approach:

1. Basics of anarchist ideas.
2. Why do some people reject capitalism but propose ideas with similarities to capitalism ? (humane capitalism, being only opposed to "financial capitalism" (banks, interest rates, etc.), "people before profits" style democratic capitalism, Marxism, participatory economics, populism, and more.)
3. What is "class" ? What is "property" ? What are "wages" ? (questions all onto themselves but they can give further nuance in small definitions.)
4. Why do people focus so much on corporations ? Is it a way to distract from the foundations of capitalist ways of thinking and direct it all towards arch-nemesis enemies (Monsanto, Goldman-Sachs, Google, Chase-Manhattan) ? They definitely stand out, but another capitalist enterprise could easily replace them (therefore, creating a new arch-nemesis/villain.)  
5. If anyone can make a funny jab at the idea of "cross-class alliances," they can earn extra wink-wink points from me.

These are my personal understandings of the ideas listed above.

I bring up this question after perusing the website and I couldn't find a specific question about capitalism by itself (hopefully I didn't miss it.) Also, I came across this book when organizing the library for an infoshop project:


Mostly written by liberals, progressives, populists, and marxists. I didn't notice any anarchists listed.
asked Aug 12, 2014 by Artificiality (10,180 points)
i was just thinking that this question should be on the site. :)

edited to add: this question is huge, and perhaps would be best broken into smaller bits with links?
(i wish this site had a threading/branching option. stupid tech...)
Capitalism is a system of logic and its more hard-dick intellectual adherents like the Objectivists and so-called anarcho-capitalists realize this, which is why they tend so strongly toward deductive reasoning in their speech, writing and argumentation. Seriously, instead of reading anti-capitalist writings on capitalism in order to understand capitalism, I think anarchists might be more informed if they read (anarcho-) capitalists themselves. Rand, Rothbard, Mises because they really reach for the logical consequences of capitalism.  It's boring shit, but I think its important to do if anarchists are going to understand their own deep-seated reactions/responses to capitalism, as well as understanding capitalism.

It seems futile to attempt an understanding of a logical system from a stance wholly at variance to the system in question, particularly if the latter is hostile to former from the outset. Axioms are always perspectival, and I see this fetishizing of logic as nothing but a living perspective reified into a dead perspective, a self-contradiction as far as critical-reasoning (which I differentiate from logic) is concerned.

Perhaps some relevant questions are: what do we see when we enter the perspective place we desire to understand? Why are certain features of it reified into fictions of universality? What are the drives, motives, instincts of that perspective, as well as my own, which reacts to it? That is, we have to also seek out the extra-logical, a-rational and even moral drives which underlie capitalism...and anarchism.
it might be worth, also, defining/describing what "corporatism" is, as well as it's relationship to capitalism.

from merriam-webster (corporatism):

"the organization of a society into industrial and professional corporations serving as organs of political representation and exercising control over persons and activities within their jurisdiction "

from what i gather, @caps tend to see a problem with corporatism, but not capitalism. of course, the way they define "capitalism" is so insanely broad and vague that it is essentially meaningless. (eg, "every human activity is a transaction",etc).
i find it hysterically funny that capitalists - including @-caps that post here - almost without exception spout this rhetoric as part of the fundamental definition of capitalism:

aggression (defined largely as fucking with anyone's private property) has no place in a capitalist society.

holy shit! do thinking people actually buy that shit? after religion, i cannot imagine what ideology has resulted in more aggression, violence, death and destruction.

[ok, now back to my regularly unscheduled life]

Yep. The @caps do this in spite of the historical context within which capitalism formed: the English Empire abroad and enclosures in England. The former was most conducive to the first multi-nationals (ex: East India Company) and the latter to providing labor for the textile mills, etc.

Nope. not even an iota of aggression.

1 Answer

+1 vote
ok - just to get this started...

capitalism is both an economic system
(wikipedia:<an economic system in which trade, industry, and the means of production are largely or entirely privately owned and operated for profit. Central characteristics of capitalism include capital accumulation, competitive markets and wage labour.>)

and also the philosophical system that results from the above: atomization or separation of things into isolated so-called components; alienation of action from actor; over-valuation of abstractions; etc (?)...

the @faq is (sometimes?) overly marxist, but i don't mind the following bit:<Capitalism, by treating labour as analogous to all other commodities, denies the key distinction between labour and other "resources" - that is to say its inseparability from its bearer - labour, unlike other "property," is endowed with will and agency. Thus when one speaks of selling labour there is a necessary subjugation of will (hierarchy).>

ps: wikipedia has also this bit, which is simplistic in a bad way. <In a capitalist economy, the parties to a transaction typically determine the prices at which assets, goods, and services are exchanged.> this "parties agree" language makes it sound like two people shaking hands over a price, which is not the way it works at all. large groups of people with varying social and historic power have influence over prices, productivity, and availability (ie *what* is even considered to be a sellable), but individuals have almost no say over such things, perhaps unless they are extremely rich/influential (and maybe not even then).

this is not a good answer, so someone be provoked into writing a better one.

edited for... provocation!
answered Aug 19, 2014 by dot (57,680 points)
edited Aug 19, 2014 by dot
It is a more specific answer than I can gather at the moment, Dot. I will mention class-society, property as being more important than life, and "everything for sale" as my generic overviews of what is capitalism.
the "everything for sale" is so true... (but i would argue that Kism doesn't hold life as less important than property, but as the same as property).
First off, I have not heard of the term "Kism" in reference to Capitalism. That is very interesting.

I like the view that under Capitalism, property is seen as equal to life in contrast to my view of property being more important than life. I might add that maybe property = and > than life. I do not know if I can relinquish the idea that for many people under this way of life, that property has more value than life.
an easy work around:  some properties are worth more than others.

(ie "why not both?" ;) )
Artifice:  maybe it depends, whose property, whose life?
tho, those whose opinion on this matters (translates to action in the real world, ie. are rich enough to buy their way thru), are far fewer than those of us who are bought and sold.