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I would like to know if capitalism can be considered as a cultural phenomenon, rather than simply some "system" that is driven by inexorable laws. One of the recent books on capitalism by Joyce Appleby treats capitalism as such and suggests that there is no single development formula. The author believes that history shows that capitalism must follow its own path in each society. She organizes much of her material around Joseph Schumpeter's notion of "creative destruction." The most striking feature of capitalism, she says, is change.

what are your thoughts on such a description of capitalism

asked Sep 22 '10 at 22:36

Michael's gravatar image

Michael
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edited Sep 22 '10 at 22:46

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦
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To answer the question itself: "Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned." http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/capitalism.html

Regarding capitalism as a "cultural phenomenon" with "no single development formula" which must "follow its own path in each society": That doesn't sounds like much of a definition of anything. "Capitalism", like any concept, must have a clear, specific meaning. The description you give is too fuzzy and unclear to mean anything. (And "change" is certainly a part of a dynamic capitalist economy—but it's an effect, not a cause or a fundamental. The fundamental, as Rand identified, is the protection of individual rights.)

answered Sep 23 '10 at 03:18

jasoncrawford's gravatar image

jasoncrawford ♦
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thanks for the response. I have heard of the term creative destruction before. it was referred to as disruptive innovation.

(Sep 23 '10 at 06:22) Michael Michael's gravatar image

Well, sure, "creative destruction" is something that goes on in a fast-moving, innovative economy. We invent the automobile, we obsolete the horse-and-buggy industry. But again, that's an effect of capitalism, not a cause, fundamental, or defining characteristic.

(Sep 23 '10 at 15:12) jasoncrawford ♦ jasoncrawford's gravatar image

it bears noting that Schumpeter was writing at a historical lowpoint for capitalism's reputation in the intelligentsia. In the wake of widespread socialist/Marxist ideology, the Great Depression, and Keynes's interventionism, all kinds of things get written to "explain" capitalism's workings. It also bears noting that Schumpeter got all the raves and attention while Mises (the "reactionary," the "ideologue") went ignored. Back then, it was widely believed that socialism was the wave of the future, in spite of the (ignored) writings of Mises and Hayek. Way to go, intelligentsia!

(Sep 24 '10 at 14:23) Chris Cathcart Chris%20Cathcart's gravatar image

(following up my comment above)

okay, so Hayek's Road to Serfdom wasn't ignored, much to AR's dismay. But works like Individualism and Economic Order, where you get the theoretical core of Hayekian economic thinking, the sort of thing for which he won the Nobel Prize, went ignored for some time. In the '50s and '60s all the rage in the lamestream was about Keynes, Samuelson, Galbraith and, yes, Marx. facepalm

(Sep 24 '10 at 14:28) Chris Cathcart Chris%20Cathcart's gravatar image

See mises.org

(Sep 25 '10 at 16:45) adamsdad ♦ adamsdad's gravatar image
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Asked: Sep 22 '10 at 22:36

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Last updated: Sep 25 '10 at 16:45