[Back-formed from English capitalist, one who possesses capital; from English capital: the primary or principal wealth of an individual or corporation, mainly as used for investment in production; derived from Latin capitalis: relating to the head, chief, foremost.]

  1. (politics) Originally came capital (first use: 1611), then came men of capital or capitalists (first use: 1792), then came capitalism (first use: 1854). In essence, the word capitalism describes a society that favors or encourages the formation and investment of wealth in production. In this sense, capitalism is often synonymous with the economic relations that emerge naturally in the absence of political control. Although this kind of free-market or laissez-faire capitalism is opposed by political philosophies such as socialism and communism and allied with political philosophies such as classical liberalism and libertarianism, numerous economists and social theorists insist that market phenomena emerge organically from human trading and therefore that capitalism is not an "ism" in the ideological sense. However, it is probably worthwhile to distinguish between capitalism and markets, since pure market relations would not necessarily favor the kind of corporate powers that are often artificially protected by contemporary legal systems and political ideologies. Although "natural" markets may favor the creation of capital, not everything that favors the creation of capital is natural or non-ideological.

The Ism Book by Peter Saint-Andre

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