Capitalism is an economic system based on private ownership of the means of production and the creation of goods and services for profit.〔Chris Jenks. ''Core Sociological Dichotomies''. "Capitalism, as a mode of production, is an economic system of manufacture and exchange which is geared toward the production and sale of commodities within a market for profit, where the manufacture of commodities consists of the use of the formally free labor of workers in exchange for a wage to create commodities in which the manufacturer extracts surplus value from the labor of the workers in terms of the difference between the wages paid to the worker and the value of the commodity produced by him/her to generate that profit." London, England, UK; Thousand Oaks, California, USA; New Delhi, India: SAGE. p. 383.〕 Central characteristics of capitalism include private property, capital accumulation, wage labour and competitive markets.〔Heilbroner, Robert L. ("capitalism." ) Durlauf, Steven N.and Lawrence E. Blume, eds., ''The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics''. 2nd ed. (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008) 〕〔Louis Hyman and Edward E. Baptist (2014). ''(American Capitalism: A Reader ).'' Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781476784311.〕 In a capitalist market economy, investments are determined by private decision and the parties to a transaction typically determine the prices at which they exchange assets, goods, and services.〔("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" )〕
The degree of competition in markets, the role of intervention and regulation, and the scope of state ownership vary across different .〔''Macmillan Dictionary of Modern Economics'', 3rd Ed., 1986, p. 54.〕 Economists, political economists, and historians have adopted different perspectives in their analyses of capitalism and have recognized various forms of it in practice. These include ''laissez-faire'' or free market capitalism, welfare capitalism and state capitalism. Each model has employed varying degrees of dependency on free markets, public ownership, obstacles to free competition, and inclusion of state-sanctioned social policies.
The extent to which different markets are free, as well as the rules defining private property, become matters of politics and of policy. Many states have a mixed economy, which combines elements of both free markets with state interventionism, and in some cases, with economic planning.〔
Stilwell, Frank. “Political Economy: the Contest of Economic Ideas.” First Edition. Oxford University Press. Melbourne, Australia. 2002.
Capitalism has existed under many forms of government, in many different times, places, and cultures, but in modern times it has become dominant and much less restrained.〔 Following the decline of mercantilism, mixed capitalist systems became dominant in the Western world and continue to spread.
The term ''capitalist'', meaning an owner of capital, appears earlier than the term ''capitalism''. It dates back to the mid-17th century. ''Capitalist'' is derived from ''capital'', which evolved from ''capitale'', a late Latin word based on ''caput'', meaning "head" — also the origin of ''chattel'' and ''cattle'' in the sense of movable property (only much later to refer only to livestock). Capitale emerged in the 12th to 13th centuries in the sense of referring to funds, stock of merchandise, sum of money, or money carrying interest.〔Braudel p. 232〕〔James Augustus Henry Murray. "Capital". (A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles ). ''Oxford English Press''. Vol 2. p. 93.〕 By 1283 it was used in the sense of the capital assets of a trading firm. It was frequently interchanged with a number of other words — wealth, money, funds, goods, assets, property, and so on.〔Braudel p. 233〕
The ''Hollandische Mercurius'' uses ''capitalists'' in 1633 and 1654 to refer to owners of capital.〔Braudel p. 234〕 In French, Étienne Clavier referred to ''capitalistes'' in 1788,〔e.g., "L'Angleterre a-t-elle l'heureux privilège de n'avoir ni Agioteurs, ni Banquiers, ni Faiseurs de services, ni Capitalistes?" in (Clavier ) (1788) ''De la foi publique envers les créanciers de l'état: lettres à M. Linguet sur le n °CXVI de ses annales'' (p. 19 )〕 six years before its first recorded English usage by Arthur Young in his work ''Travels in France'' (1792).〔〔Arthur Young. (''Travels in France'' )〕 David Ricardo, in his ''Principles of Political Economy and Taxation'' (1817), referred to "the capitalist" many times.〔Ricardo, David. Principles of Political Economy and Taxation. 1821. John Murray Publisher, 3rd edition.〕 Samuel Taylor Coleridge, an English poet, used ''capitalist'' in his work ''Table Talk'' (1823).〔Samuel Taylor Coleridge. (Tabel ''The Complete Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge'' ). p. 267.〕 Pierre-Joseph Proudhon used the term ''capitalist'' in his first work, ''What is Property?'' (1840) to refer to the owners of capital. Benjamin Disraeli used the term ''capitalist'' in his 1845 work ''Sybil''.〔
The initial usage of the term ''capitalism'' in its modern sense has been attributed to Louis Blanc in 1850 ("..what i call 'capitalism' that is to say the appropriation of capital by some to the exclusion of others.") and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in 1861 ("Economic and social regime in which capital, the source of income, does not generally belong to those who make it work through their labour.").〔Braudel, Fernand. ''The Wheels of Commerce: Civilization and Capitalism 15th–18th Century'', Harper and Row, 1979, p. 237〕 Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels referred to the ''capitalistic system''.〔Karl Marx. Chapter 16: "Absolute and Relative Surplus-Value". ''Das Kapital'': "The prolongation of the working-day beyond the point at which the laborer would have produced just an equivalent for the value of his labor-power, and the appropriation of that surplus-labor by capital, this is production of absolute surplus-value. It forms the general groundwork of the ''capitalist system'', and the starting-point for the production of relative surplus-value."〕〔Karl Marx. Chapter Twenty-Five: "The General Law of Capitalist Accumulation". ''Das Kapital''.〕 and to the capitalist mode of production in ''Das Kapital'' (1867).〔Saunders, Peter (1995). ''Capitalism''. University of Minnesota Press. p. 1〕 The use of the word "capitalism" in reference to an economic system appears twice in Volume I of ''Das Kapital'', p. 124 (German edition), and in ''Theories of Surplus Value'', tome II, p. 493 (German edition). Marx did not extensively use the form ''capitalism'', but instead those of ''capitalist'' and ''capitalist mode of production'', which appear more than 2600 times in the trilogy ''Das Kapital''.
According to the ''Oxford English Dictionary'' (OED), the term ''capitalism'' first appeared in English in 1854 in the novel ''The Newcomes'', by novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, where he meant "having ownership of capital".〔James Augustus Henry Murray. "Capitalism" p. 94.〕 Also according to the OED, Carl Adolph Douai, a German-American socialist and abolitionist, used the term ''private capitalism'' in 1863.
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