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UNIT-1 Socio-Economic Structures (CAPITALISM) | Part-1 SEMESTER 4 CCPA

Updated: Apr 30

A. Capitalism

This chapter notes are divided into three parts, this is first part which covers capitalism, kindly go through blog section of the website and check other parts.



  • Definition: Capitalism is an economic system characterized by private ownership of the means of production and profit-oriented production.

  • Societal Organization: Capitalism organizes society into classes based on production relations, with individuals and businesses seeking profit as a primary motivation.

Ideological and Economic Perspectives

  • Ideological Perspective: Capitalism is often viewed as an ideology aligned with principles of private property, self-interest, and meritocracy, reflecting classical liberal ideals.

  • Economic System: Capitalism is a system of commodity production focused on profit, where social structures and economic activities revolve around market dynamics.

Key Characteristics of Capitalism

  1. Private Ownership: Capitalism features private ownership of productive assets, such as land, factories, and businesses.

  2. Market Governance: Economic activity in capitalism is governed by market principles such as the price mechanism and supply-demand dynamics.

  3. Wage Labor: Capitalism replaces traditional forms of labor with wage labor, where individuals work for wages rather than as part of a feudal or communal system.

4. Profit Motive: Material self-interest and profit maximization are central drivers of enterprise and economic activity in capitalist systems.

5. Freedom of Enterprise: Capitalism often emphasizes the freedom of individuals and businesses to engage in economic activities with limited government intervention.

Theoretical Perspectives on Capitalism

  • Max Weber's View: Weber viewed capitalism as embodying a rational and systematic pursuit of profit, defining a particular epoch characterized by economic rationality and the "spirit of capitalism."

  • German Historical School: This school of thought sees capitalism as the transition from a "natural economy" to a "money economy," emphasizing the role of production for distant markets in shaping economic structures.

  • Marxist Perspective: According to Marx, capitalism is a "mode of production" where the ownership of means of production determines societal relations, leading to class division between the bourgeoisie (capitalists) and the proletariat (workers).

Liberal Conception of Capitalism

  • Rooted in classical liberal principles, the liberal conception of capitalism emphasizes individualism, free markets, and limited government intervention in economic affairs.

  • Advocates for Laissez-faire: This perspective advocates for a laissez-faire economic system where individuals and businesses are free to pursue their economic interests with minimal government interference.

Origin and Development of Capitalism

  • Emergence: Capitalism emerged in Europe during the period of modernity (14th to 17th centuries), influenced by movements such as the Renaissance, Enlightenment, Reformation, and Industrial Revolution.

  • Shift in Worldviews: These movements emphasized scientific rationality, individualism, and economic freedom, contributing to a shift in worldviews towards scientific progress and individual autonomy.


Stages of Capitalism's Expansion

  • Pre-competitive or Mercantile Phase (1500-1800): During this phase, European powers engaged in colonial expansion, exploiting colonies for resources and trade.

  • Colonial Expansion (1800-1950): European powers established direct control over colonies, exploiting their resources and labor.

  • Neo-colonization or Late Monopoly Capitalism (1950-1970): Former colonies gained independence but remained economically dependent on former colonizers.

  • Globalization and Neo-Imperialism (1970 onwards): Globalization led to the spread of capitalist economic principles worldwide, with neoliberal policies promoting free markets, deregulation, and privatization.

Types of Capitalism

  1. Enterprise Capitalism: Also known as the 'American business model,' enterprise capitalism emphasizes free market competition and minimal public ownership, with the belief that the market is a self-regulating mechanism.

  2. Social Capitalism: Originating in Germany, social capitalism seeks to combine market competition with social cohesion and solidarity, focusing on a social market driven by market principles alongside a comprehensive welfare system.

  3. State Capitalism: State capitalism emphasizes a directive role for the state in the economy, with the economy directed through 'relational markets' rather than an impersonal price mechanism.

Criticisms of Capitalism

  • Marxist Critique: Marxism views capitalism as inherently exploitative, with the capitalist class extracting surplus value from labor, leading to inequality and social alienation.

  • Lenin's Critique of Imperialism: Lenin argued that imperialism leads to the exploitation and impoverishment of colonized societies, benefiting capitalist powers.

  • Dependency Theory: This theory views underdevelopment in third world countries as a result of colonial capital and unequal power relations in the global capitalist system.

  • Neoliberalism Critique: Neoliberalism is criticized for increasing inequality and social breakdown by promoting market-centric policies that prioritize profit over social welfare.


  • Recap of capitalism's ancient roots and modern development.

  • Reflection on capitalism's challenges and potential paths forward, including addressing criticisms and humanizing the system to promote prosperity for all.

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