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
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