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.

Suggested tags:

  • 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.

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    If it's our intention to avoid debates about which interpretation is valid, I'm reminded of the quip about Standards : What do you get if you write a standard to unify three separate standards? Four separate standards. Apr 12, 2023 at 8:38
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    This reads more like a meta-discussion rather than an actual question in itself. I will migrate it to meta.
    – Philipp Mod
    Apr 12, 2023 at 8:46
  • @Philipp I think having a question that details the different definitions could have been useful as a reference... in absence of the suggested wiki/tag modifications and the consistent application of the terms by the moderation team. So I think the migration is counter-productive: it serves more to remove the question from the sight of the community than to actually address it. Apr 12, 2023 at 9:21
  • @ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere using different definitions in a debate is a known logical fallacy. Apr 12, 2023 at 9:23
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    @RogerVadim - Exactly. Do you see people immediately accepting our new definition as definitive (I'm guessing you're not entirely new to SE), or is it more likely to provoke more of the thing we say we're trying to avoid? Apr 12, 2023 at 9:30
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    @ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere I am not suggesting a new definition. Rather it is about fixing the discussion to a single definition agreed upon. Possibly also having definitions listed in one place with credible sources cited. I am tired of self-proclaimed communists and socialists who have never read Marx. Apr 12, 2023 at 9:32
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    @RogerVadim - Ah, if only that "agreed upon" was as simple and permanent as it sounds here. We've already made the Engels fans feel left out... Apr 12, 2023 at 9:42
  • @ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere it is not about feelings, it is about having clear discussions and conveying unambiguous message. Though this reminds me that this is a Politics and not Political science community - if you understand the difference in terms ;) Apr 12, 2023 at 9:48
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    I think your intuitive definitions are accurate for many people, but not for all people. For many people, the intuitive definitions are "capitalism = freedom", "socialism = government control" and "communism = oppression". This underscores your point that different definitions are in use within a single debate and that causes confusion. But it also means that a tag like "Communism (popular notion)" is useless because the popular notion of these terms differs great between different political circles
    – T Hummus
    Apr 12, 2023 at 18:27
  • I do not like this question, as it uses the term scientific communism... The theory behind science is you perform an experiment, you examine the results.. And you draw conclusions. Communism has performed the same experiment 5 times, produced lots of dead bodies. And claimed each time that next time will be different because the last time was not 'real' communism... How is this scientific?
    – Questor
    Apr 12, 2023 at 22:59
  • @Questor Scientific communism is an actual term and the name of a discipline that was taught in the USSR, in every university. One can debate whether it us really scientific, like one doubts whether social science or computer science have to do with science, but otherwise it refers to a specific thing. On the other hand, the repeated failure of the communist regimes (a lot more than 5 times) is an experimental proof, and hence quite scientific as evidence. Apr 29, 2023 at 5:37
  • Computer Science follows scientific principles, it produces testable results... Admitaadly most people who study computer science want to become an engineer as opposed to a scientist... But engineering also follows the scientific method. And as much as I decry the social sciences, most of those follow scientific procedures, look at data and try to use it to prove/disprove theory... Communism produces testable results and then throws away the results (and the bodies) because the results didn't match the theory.
    – Questor
    May 1, 2023 at 15:50

9 Answers 9


I disagree.

We could adopt a specific definition of these words, but that wouldn't stop others from using different definitions. Moreover any question of "Is X Communist" which is answered along the lines of "According to the meaning of 'communist' adopted by Politics Stackexchange, it is Communist." would have limited value.

This leads to the "no true Scotsman" fallacy. "No Capitalist State would have a role for socialised health care/ What about the UK?/ Aye well no True Capitalist State"...

What is useful is to find the relevant tag wiki for these terms and discuss how there isn't a single fixed definition that everyone agrees on, but there are some features of capitalism or communism that are generally agreed upon, and others which are controversial.

But when you speak of "misusing the term" this causes problems. By what logic does our little website have the right to tell the Communist Party of China that they are misusing the term?

There should not be a proliferation of debates, since questions that ask the same thing can be closed as duplicates, and questions asking for opinions (or asking for opinions dressed as facts) can already be closed.

So, do edit the tag wiki, if you have the required reputation. And do close duplicate questions and questions that invite debate. But don't close questions just because the OP has a different understanding of a word from that which you hold.

  • It is okay with me, to have several tags, so that the discussions become meaningful, rather than shouting matches. I suspect though that giving (thinking of) clear definitions would automatically exclude some type of questions and answers, like those where capitalism is used as synonymous with greed. Apr 12, 2023 at 9:41
  • 1
    Perhaps you could give some examples. Specfically, which questions use capitalism to mean "greed"?
    – James K
    Apr 12, 2023 at 9:48
  • I suggest instead that you look through this thread and count how many different definitions of communism were used in the answers and the comments (and how many of them did not provide any definition at all.) Apr 12, 2023 at 9:51
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    Well that one is closed. (I voted to close it, despite it hitting HNQ) But it illustrates the problem. All of those definitions are, in a sense, valid. There are multiple definitions of "communism" - and the Communist Manifesto is just one source. It would be wrong to consider that communist theory has not advanced one jot since 1848.
    – James K
    Apr 12, 2023 at 9:57
  • It would be wrong to consider that communist theory has not advanced one jot since 1848. - that's fine to say (and is mentioned in the OP as alternative definitions), but needs to be supported with quotes and references. Which is why I originally posted my question not in meta, so that such claims could be put to test. Apr 12, 2023 at 10:03
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    That's why I closed that question as "Primarily Opinion-Based". There is no one definition of communism. And we are not going to change that through forming a consensus that's only valid in our community.
    – Philipp Mod
    Apr 12, 2023 at 10:31
  • @Philipp even closed questions allow earning reputation, which might be significant for such popular topics. This is the reason why I reduced my activity in this community to minimum, when I began approaching 10 thousands in just a few months - in my SE profile it just doesn't look good next to smaller but solid reputations in communities, where I do have expertise. Apr 12, 2023 at 10:54
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    That HNQ breaks the stackexchange model of "the best questions get the most votes" (and replaces it with "hot" questions get the most votes, where "hot" is defined by some secret sauce) is a known problem, and one that affect a wide range of topics and sites. Being prescriptive about the definition of communism won't fix that.
    – James K
    Apr 12, 2023 at 12:35

I don't think this would be constructive to form a consensus about the definition of terms that's valid in our community. Who gives our community the authority to define what communism is? We certainly don't have more authority in this regard than Karl Marx, Che Guevara, Joseph Stalin or Xi Jinping.

So I propose that we come to the consensus that there is no consensus how these terms are defined.

That means that we should insist that people who ask a question about an ill-defined term (like communism, capitalism, democracy, fascism, smurfism etc.) to properly state which definition they refer to in the context of their question and close it until they do. Or in cases where getting a proper definition of the term is the whole purpose of the question (like in "Communism in the Soviet Union, China, etc., wasn't real communism" - is that true? for example) reject the question as primarily opinion-based. Because otherwise anyone who answers can just pick any definition they want and use it as the premise of their answer. Questions which have no right or wrong answers are not a good fit for Stack Exchange.

  • The community has the authority to define what is discussed and how. And my post makes suggestions in this direction... which seem to be overlooked by the moderation team so far. Apr 12, 2023 at 10:56
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    Well, that Q was rather confusing [to me], so I vacillated on the "correct" close reason because it is starting with a definition. But according to that def the answer was rather obvious and given in the Q. The OP then seems to ask if they are using the "wrong" definition. Which asked alone is indeed opinion-based. Perhaps as asked there the OP is asking for a definition that would make the statement true. But that also seemed like an extremely trivial/obvious Q to me. Apr 12, 2023 at 10:58
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    Throw in the [unfinished!] assertion somewhere in the Q that those countries aren't even socialist "because", and it seemed more and more like a discussion starter if not deliberate trolling. Anyhow, a low quality question that probably shouldn't have been on HNQ. Apr 12, 2023 at 11:05
  • "Questions which have no right or wrong answers are not a good fit for Stack Exchange." Agreed. I wish everyone involved in politics.SE had realized this up front, and thus not created the site. Jul 5, 2023 at 17:12

I disagree.

Polysemy, i.e., the reality that the same word often has similar but not identical meanings in different contexts, is a practice at the heart of the practice of politics.

Words don't have the same meaning to all people at all times, and there is no purpose beyond idle pedantry to respond to questions about "was John Doe's" incorrect in calling "some policy" "Socialism" in "this speech.", changing the quoted material as needed. There isn't a right and wrong definition for a word, or more precisely, there is more than one possible right definition for a word, although some definitions are so far from the mark that everyone would agree that the definition was wrong.

For example, Socialism could be anything from free parking on Main Street to the political and economic ideology of the Soviet Union, depending upon context, but it definitely isn't a trigonometric function that is the inverse of the sine function.

  • You are not the first who starts the answer with I disagree - it is not clear what part of the question one disagrees with. That we should avoid equivocation abd other debate fallacies? That explaining different meanings of the terms, and supporting them by citations would benefit the community? No offense, but such disagreements are likely based on the incomplete reading of the question, perhaps simply reacting to the title. This is not a serious discussion and not what one expects from a moderator with 65k reputation. Apr 15, 2023 at 5:19

"Capitalism, Socialism, and Communism" are incredibly complex concepts which entries in encyclopedias about them filling pages after pages and endless citation lists. It's virtually impossible to say in only a few sentences what each of these is about without simplifying matters to at least some degree. You don't want us to become the authoritative source to decide that these terms really mean. We couldn't anyway.

Additionally, these things never appear in their pure form in nature. Many practically relevant questions here deal with adaptations of capitalism, communism, ... . They wouldn't be covered by any out-of-the-box definitions.

And restricting questions to a particular meaning of these terms would mean that if a question ever wants to discuss another meaning, how shall it describe these concepts then?

Example: "Is Communism intrinsically authoritarian?" clearly seems to assume that a non-authoritarian Communism might be possible. But what if we decided that it's not possible? How could one still word the question keeping a succinct title?

Instead, questions should simply give additional specifications to limit their scope. Example "Is Communism intrinsically authoritarian?" ideally would define or point to a used definition of communism to be answerable and not suffer from ambiguities of the used terms.

So indeed there is a problem, but the solution is not a new policy but simply giving sufficient context in questions to make them about concepts, not about definitions. Each and every question should make sure by itself (i.e. by sufficient explanations) that misunderstandings based on different readings of used terms are minimized.

You gave a few possible definitions in this question. I suggest that questions on the main site simply follow this example when they ask about something and specify capitalism, communism, ... more when asking about them.

  • We must define what the debate is about, since otherwise we cannot (and should not) debate at all. As others have suggested there is nothing wrong with having several tags related to the same term - and I expanded the question accordingly. Apr 12, 2023 at 13:44
  • I also suggest that you avoid edits that alter the meaning of the question, without consulting with the author. Apr 12, 2023 at 13:46
  • @RogerVadim That's not how editing works. Of course I try to keep the meaning unchanged. In this case I wanted to extract an actual question. If you do not agree, simply roll back. That's perfectly okay. Apr 12, 2023 at 14:22
  • Editing is primarily for fixing errors. Also, the official designation of the comments section is to suggest improvements. The fact that there is nothing (except your consciousness) preventing you from modifying a post unilaterally doesn't mean that it is a good idea to do this. Apr 12, 2023 at 14:29
  • @RogerVadim Editing is for improvement of content. Comments are for clarifications. To me the matter is clear. If you feel that the edit was wrong, change it or undo it. But you didn't. Apr 12, 2023 at 14:42

On the more recent proposal

  • 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.)

I'm not exactly sold on this because essentially the only proposal here is to have 3 tags for capitalism. The "popular notion" being that capitalism = greed? Possibly distinguishing capitalism in the more elaborate definitions from a/the market economy in a wider sense is useful, but I'm not sure there are even 10 of the 50 or so capitalism-tagged questions here that use the specific Marxist def (or Schumpeter modification thereof--which I'm pretty sure zero questions use). There are only two questions that are tagged with both Marxism and capitalism. And one of those questions was closed as too confused. The other one seem indeed to be about some Marxist notions. I'd say that tag combos handle the situation well enough for now.

If I understood the mutatis mutandis proposal, it's also have

  • Communism (political and economic system in the USSR, China, etc.) [vs]
  • Communism (concept in Marxism and friends)

I suspect, at least based on recent events, that we get more questions that would justify two tags, or at least a way to make the distinction there... but I'm not too sure what the concise names should be for those. Wikipedia uses communist-state vs communism, it seems. Perhaps it should be a separate proposal, since I suspect people would like to yay/nay that separately, or maybe they have other alternative names to propose there.

  • 2
    Another advantage of 2 communism tags is having Askers see them. "There are two different communism tags?" would have solved the Q that motivated this meta-Q. Apr 12, 2023 at 22:17

These definitions are easy enough to make from a political science perspective, e.g.:

  • Capitalism: a political economy in which productive property and wealth (aka capital) are primarily owned and developed in the private sector. Government can be regulative, laissez faire, or cronyist, but generally allows private interests broad liberties.
  • Socialism: a political economy in which productive property and wealth (aka capital) are primarily owned and developed in the public sector, under direct government control. Government can be centralized, distributed, or bureaucratic, but generally puts broad public interests above private goals.
  • Communism: (ideally) a political economy in which class structures have been dissolved and broad liberties have been secured across the population, reducing the need for formal governance.

Unfortunately, the general public uses these terms non-analytically, as gestures within the magical thinking of performative politics. That type of linguistic sleight-of-hand is geared towards emotional stimulation, and thus doesn't have much truck with 'pedantic' definitions. You'll always have someone arguing with any definition that doesn't serve their chosen polemic.

Sad state of affairs...

I don't have a solution at the moment; just pointing out the problem.

  • I agree. I wonder though why you have omitted the public ownership of the means of production in communism - because ownership becomes a meaningless concept? Also broad liberties have been secured across the population seems to be off - I am not arguing about the content of the communism for the moment, it is just that the definition you give to the communism is strikingly different from those that you gave to capitalism and socialism, which are in line with Marxist views on economy and fighting for class rights/liberties (rather than the individual ones.) Apr 12, 2023 at 13:54
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    @RogerVadim: I used "ownership in the public sector" as a more general term, to cover things like syndicalism. The point is that no private individual gets to make public decisions — decisions that affect the community — without (at the very least) public oversight. Ant the reason Communism is presented differently is because it's a utopian ideal. Marx's Communism is like Adam Smith's 'Free Market': an idealized abstraction that doesn't appear in the real world. Apr 12, 2023 at 14:16
  • Regarding the ownership - I was quite dismayed to discover from this recent discussion that many people are unaware that most means of production were nationally owned in the USSR. This is why I think that ownership is an important factor - not sure if you grouped it under socialism (which is itself an often misinterpreted term, where the multitude of meanings/uses is perhaps even more justified than for communism, as it goes well beyond Marx.) Apr 12, 2023 at 14:21
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    @RogerVadim: in fact (and apologies for putting the fox in the hen-house) Smith's 'Free Market' and Marx's 'Communism' aren't all that different. Smith focused on the selfish desire to 'truck and barter' for things one doesn't have, and Marx focused on the selfish desire to contribute and be recognized, but otherwise they both imagined classless societies of equals working indirectly for the common good. Apr 12, 2023 at 14:22
  • Regarding the fox in the hen-house - I have no problem with people defending communism, as long as they know what they talk about, speak the truth, and make logical arguments. Once a scientist is always a scientist. If put in terms of desire for profit and recognition - the truth is likely in between... though Rand groups both under capitalism. Apr 12, 2023 at 14:26
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    @RogerVadim: We should be careful with the term 'ownership'. Contrary to popular belief, 'ownership' is a political statement; saying "I own this" is tantamount to saying "I have the right to make decisions regarding this for everyone involved." Sometimes ownership is innocuous: if I own a pen I can mostly do what I want with it because no one else is concerned. Sometimes ownership is noxious, leading to exploitation or slavery, environmental degradation, social conflicts, etc. Apr 12, 2023 at 14:53
  • @RogerVadim: In the USSR the government controlled the people who ran the (big) industries. In the USA, the people who run (big) industries control the government. Different sides of the same coin, perhaps, but the ideal in both cases is that no person is controlled by other people. Apr 12, 2023 at 14:56
  • The rather dictionary def of capitalism you gave, while more elaborate than almar's, has its [expert] critics as too broad see economics.stackexchange.com/a/31865/6210 Apr 12, 2023 at 15:29
  • @Fizz: People quibble with everything, I swear... A lot of people confuse capitalism proper with basic acts of financing, production, and commerce (FP&C). That's a mistake. FP&C go back into prehistory as a basic element of human society (division of labor). Capitalism is a political economy in which the government guarantees and supports a particular (ostensibly Liberal) form of FP&C. Feudalism had it's own FP&C, as does socialism, but you can't call them capitalist just because they have FP&C. Apr 12, 2023 at 16:29
  • I qualiify big industries control the government (crony capitalism?) as an example of using the naive definition of capitalism, since here it is associated with exploiting government controls for personal benefit (greed?) However, the elephant in the room is that this is possible, only if the government has significant power/control (presumably given to it in the name of the people and to help people) - that is we are dealing here with greed in conditions that are closer to socialism than to free market. @JamesK FYI Apr 13, 2023 at 4:16
  • This definition of socialism clearly fails to include national socialism, as there dominated highly intrusive indirect state control (state fixed prices, state let state-licensed trade union to have huge say in company governance, state set goals and deposed trouble making owners, state blocked ability to cash out) but still left formal owner officially in charge.
    – Shadow1024
    Apr 26, 2023 at 20:31
  • @Shadow1024: National socialism isn't socialism (in either the Marxist or pre-Marxist sense). It's a form of politicized crony capitalism that appears in Right-nationalist regimes. Labels can be deceptive in nationalist regimes; or did you think that the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea was actually a democratic republic? Apr 26, 2023 at 20:39
  • @TedWrigley I'd agree that Marxist deem it as heresy, though actual application in creation a totalitarian state governing economy was quite close. Hitler even implemented a 4 year plan or introduced later political officers so crosspolination of ideas was strong. Moreover, argument concerning high level of nationalism completely misses the point as after initial flirt with internationalism, Trocky was removed and system started to drift towards nationalism, like in WW2 or in boosting local nationalism as anti-colonialism.
    – Shadow1024
    Apr 26, 2023 at 21:02

How is compiling such definitions significantly different from linking people to Wikipedia (assuming the quality of the respective articles there doesn't deteriorate).

I mean the problem is that these have always been politically charged terms that describe:

  • utopian ideals
  • practical political goals
  • ideologies
  • political movements trying to achieve these goals (without power)
  • governments under that banner (with power)
  • Definitions of all these things by their respective adversaries

And as a consequence you've got a clusterfuck of definitions that often enough contradict each other. Like for definitions of followers and adversaries that is to be expected, but there's also deviations between "idealists" and "realists" and sometimes even by the same people "before" and "after" a revolution. So to know what a particular group is talking about you probably have to check out the definition of that particular group, but disclaimer, they are political advocacy groups so they might also be strategically lying. Not to mention that one person's "progression of character" is another person's "treason and betrayal of ideals".

But it's not just a clusterfuck of definitions it's also a clusterfuck to disentangle them. Because most self-descriptions will still refer to the positive popular notion of the term of their ideology, the problem is just that this is often a rather broad statement that is the least common denominator of all the different uses of the term and as such lacks detail and those "details" can end up subverting the meaning of the tag entirely. So if people just stack tags to "make sure every possible meaning is covered" you haven't really won anything, do you?

Also why do you give 3 definitions of capitalism, something that arguably isn't even a real ideology with followers, but just a mode of production described by the people who don't like it, but only 1 definition of communism that is by most accounts also wrong?

Like communism is the ideal end goal of a mutual society of equals that governs itself direct democratically by mutual consensus and produces for it's own consumption based and the ability and needs of it's members.

Just because these parties called that or a variation of that their ultimate goal and named their party like that, doesn't mean that the system they produced looked anything like that or that, given that people realized such discrepancies, didn't avoid actually naming their systems as such, but often preferred the more ambiguous term of "socialism" (also by their own definition). Who called it "communist" were often anti-communists who didn't like the idea or the implementation or both.

Probably a more fitting tag would be Marxist-Leninist or Stalinist as these governments are all a particular kind of ideology and usually follow the blueprint of Marxism-Leninism, an ideology practiced by Lenin and formulated by Stalin. The thing is where Marx argued that a surplus economy with unequal distribution of labor and reward, would lead to a revolution of the working class majority using their power to change the mode of production. Lenin argued in favor of destabilizing a country and having a minority cadre party seizing the power and then preparing the material conditions and convincing the majority.

Regardless of that he was right in so far as selling the idea of a revolution that changes the economic status quo is much more popular when talking to poor people in authoritarian and colonial regimes that are already fucked over and yearning for change than it is to workers wealthy countries that might complain all the time but rather not risk their cozy lifestyle if they don't have to. So as said that became the blueprint for a lot of such regimes. However it still faced the problem that distributed nothing is still nothing, so regardless of the color of their flags they nonetheless engaged in exploiting of the working class for profit... As well as the fact that a minority revolution usually has a majority of people whom they antagonized so paranoia about real and perceived enemies and totalitarianism were most often a consequence of that.

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    "you give 3 definitions of capitalism [...] but only 1 definition of communism". I think the way the final proposal is to be read is to have multiple of the latter too. It's just that the OP has not enumerated them explicitly (again), but just wrote the "mutatis mutandis" thing. I think we should avoid prejudging all these since there are about twice as many communism-tagged questions than are for capitalism. Apr 13, 2023 at 6:13
  • There is also purely theoretical/utopian [totally] "free market economy", but we don't even have a tag for "laissez faire" even though there seem to be slightly more Qs for that than even tagged explicitly with capitalism. Actually, answers that use that LF term vastly exceed the (6) questions politics.stackexchange.com/… Apr 13, 2023 at 6:14
  • @Jizz Fair enough, that makes a lot more sense to see it as examples for how that could look like than as the entire list. With regards to laissez-faire economics that seems to go by various names (economic) liberalism, laissez-faire economics, anarcho-capitalism, libertarianism, deregulation, etc. The problem is that it doesn't even work as a hypothetical idea, like even an ideal free market would need regulations as to what can and cannot be property and means to protect and enforce it, regulations for how to legally acquire it and rules for how a legal transition of property looks like...
    – haxor789
    Apr 13, 2023 at 9:46
  • ... So despite a "no rules"-name, these "ideologies" are much less ideologically consistent with these things. It's more like concrete political proposals for drawing particular lines that are subject to change but which are unjustly dressed in a more general manner. Like it's possible to scrap a regulation that hinders the business practices of the largest donor of a think tank, but scraping "regulation" and leaving it vague as to what that means, isn't really a consistent ideology. Though it might make sense to have tags that use capitalism as-is and one to describe such "free market" idea.
    – haxor789
    Apr 13, 2023 at 9:49

I would argue that there's no such thing as Capitalism.

Any society where any goods are exchanged for any other goods, for the benefit of both parties, can be called Capitalist, and that makes Capitalism not an -ism - it is not an ideology. Capitalism is more like a force, not unlike gravity. One can use gravity in their ideological constructs, but gravity will exist regardless.

There are societies where market forces play larger role, and the ones where they play smaller role, but we will struggle to define that at some point a society will become "capitalitic".

So that word should be avoided and should be a red flag almost always.

  • I do agree that capitalism is more of a naturally arising phenomenon. However, one could say that this is also a Marxist view, since Marx analyses the historical evolution from a primitive society, to slavery, to serfdom, to capitalism and only then makes prediction about what society of the future should look like - communism. As much as one may be critical about his predictions and prescriptions, his historical analysis in terms of economic and class relationships is not without merit. Apr 12, 2023 at 12:52
  • Perhaps the use of capitalism term should be explicitly confined to discussing Marxism.
    – alamar
    Apr 12, 2023 at 13:06
  • I would not mind. Although, as others suggested, it is better to have multiple tags. Apr 12, 2023 at 13:13
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    Actually your def of capitalism is far too simplistic; see economics.stackexchange.com/questions/19913/… Apr 12, 2023 at 15:16
  • 1
    What you're defining here is a [partly, at least] market economy. Apr 12, 2023 at 15:26

An "ism" is a philosophy, practice, or belief that is often associated with political or religious ideologies. Therefore, these ideologies can only be defined by their characteristics because they are a matter of social construction.

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