I think this community could benefit defining precisely the use of terms like Capitalism, Socialism, and Communism. These terms are often used in their colloquial/intuitive sense, i.e.,
- capitalism is associated with greed
- socialism is associated with social/society and therefore positive
- communism is associated with common/commune and therefore positive as well
This leads to proliferation of debates that are based essentially on different definitions of these terms (Equivocation fallacy^1), which I would classify as follows:
- Intuitive definitions (capitalism=greed, socialism=social/society, communism=common/commune)
- Marxist and communist definitions (these are well detailed in the respective work, but largely centered on state vs. private ownership of the means of production, and the opposition of *liberal/individual rights vs. the rights of class/nation/race.)
- Historical definitions - one cannot really separate communism from a century-and-a-half of more or less faithful attempts to implement it with dismal consequences for individual rights and economic well-being, like in the USSR, China, North Korea, etc. It is however often claimed that these were not true communism (but according to which definition?)
- Alternative definitions - a popular trend in rehabilitating communism is trying to reinterpret Marx in the modern context (he supposedly would be liberal, if he wrote today) or appealing to pre-Marxist currents in the communism (which are somewhat obscure.)
- Definitions as used in legal or economic discourse in western society. E.g., most western states colloquially referred to as socialist actually define themselves constitutionally as social - the term socialist being reserved mainly for the states colloquially named communist. Similarly, economists and economics textbooks usually often talk of capitalism as a system based on free exchange.
Potentially, the community could create a wiki or an extended tag, specifying what exactly is meant in discussions of capitalism, communism, and socialism, closing the questions that misuse these terms and thus reducing the amount of clutter.
Discussing it as a separate thread could however be also useful: I am sure that this was discussed previously in various forms, so I am looking for answers with precise definitions and references - e.g., if you cite a Marxist definition, give a quote and a reference to the relevant work.
- Capitalism (concept in Marxism and Scientific Communism)
- Capitalism (popular notion)
- Capitalism (economic relations based on free exchange)
- Communism (political and economic system in the USSR, China, etc.)
All of the above obviously apply mutatis mutandis to the other terms mentioned earlier in the post.
^1 In logic, equivocation ("calling two different things by the same name") is an informal fallacy resulting from the use of a particular word/expression in multiple senses within an argument.