"...late capitalism is a pyramid racket on a global scale, the kind you do human sacrifices up on top of, manwhile getting the suckers to believe it's all gonna go on forever." Thomas Pynchon's novel Bleeding Edge, page 163.:::::

Capitalism may be narrowly defined as a category of economic systems in which important decisions are motivated largely by capital accumulation by individuals and firms through voluntary exchange and wage labor. David Harvey adopts a more encompassing definition of capitalism as a "social formation" in which "capital circulation and accumulation are hegemonic and dominant" in the "material, social and intelelctual bases of social life." (see p. 7 of Seventeen Contradictions)

When capitalism achieves greater efficiency it is largely a product of the information content carried by price signals, something largely missing in Soviet style planned economies.

Critique Edit

Critiques of capitalism vary from fundamental denunciations of exploitation conceived in terms of the labor theory of value like those made by Marxists to complaints of deviations from an abstract or idealized capitalism made by liberals. Aaron James offers an example of the latter in his popular nonfiction book, Assholes: A Theory. On page 146 he describes "asshole capitalism" as characterized by three features:

a) incentives - affirms expansive entitlements
b) undermanagment - lacks system for moderating the worst behaviors
c) destabilization - accumulation of people given to the worst behaviors undermines necessary cooperation

Indictment Edit

For all of capitalism's successes in productivity, it can still be indicted for a long list of tragic failures.

  • Class Privilege
Campaign Contributions to Republicans from Wonder Bread
Casual Racism
Contempt for Working People
Defensive Architecture
Extreme Inequality: Approximately 8% of all global financial wealth of households is held in tax havens and three-quarters of that is unrecorded The Missing Wealth of Nations: Are Are and the U.S. Net Debtors or Net Creditors? Gabriel Zucman.
Rich people problems
Superrich Pretending to be Astronauts
Wealthy Whiners
  • Cultural Decline
Culture Deformed by Greed
Disrespect for the past, such decisions made based solely on prices when some things have value that cannot be monetized, as with archaeological sites
News Corrupted by Sensationalism. In 2011, a political scandal erupted in Britain when it was discovered that the News Corps' News of the World tabloid had been hacking the telephones of crime victims, celebrities and political figures on a massive scale. This shameful violation of journalistic ethics was driven capitalist competition between tabloids.
Ethical/Spiritual Conviction Reduced to "Prosperity Gospel" Christianity
Mass Entertainment Reduced to "Reality Television" and Hollywood Film Plots Based on Comic Book Superheroes or Violent Action: note the delightful send-up of American popular culture in the 2006 film Idiocracy
Music Festival Exploitation
  • Erosion of Academic Intergrity
Low standards (falsified attendance records, grade inflation, job placement data inflation) at "For Profit" Institutions of Higher Education. Source: Kelly Field. "Faculty at For-Profits Allege Constant Pressure to Keep Students Enrolled." The Chronicle of Higher Education. May 13, 2011. A1, A10-A12.
Deceptive Advertising in "For Profit Colleges"
For Profit Research Journals Accept Fake Research
Predatory Publishers
Orwell Estate Rep likens Amazon to the Ministry of Truth, accuses retailer of “doublespeak”
  • Erosion of Political and Journalistic Integrity
Premier of Australia's largest state appears into an television commercial for a newspaper owned by News Corp, which then publishes a 1,500-word “investigation” (denunciation) of university indoctrination of young people about the media
  • Fraud
Volkswagen Emissions Scandal
Charging Customers for Employee Obamacare Benefits Before They Go Into Action
charity solicitation industry
Fake Herbal Supplements sold by GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart
For-Profit College
H1-B Visas Used to Steal American Tech Jobs
Meat Glue
Minimum Wage Surcharges
Systemic Fraudulent Mislabeling of seafood in the United States, with catfish substituted for Grouper and thresher shark substituted for swordfish and mahi mahi. Source: Elizabeth Rosenthal. "Some Foul Play At Fish Market" The New York Times. May 27, 2011. B1, B4. See Overfishing
White Collar Crime. In 2010, Eastern Livestock Co., LLC left 734 livestock producers in 30 states holding bad checks totaling $130 milion. The firm was only bonded for $875,000. Source: Kim Watson-Potts. "Eastern Livestock Fails." Farm Journal. 46 December 2010.
Tax Evasion. In 2013, it was revealed that a massive portion of the global economy was disguised in offshore accounts and companies to evade taxes.
  • Irrationality
Endowment Effect
  • Loss of Freedom
Airline petty tyranny
Corporate Censorship of consumer reviews.
Corporate Management demands control over employee reproduction.
Corporate Management demands control over employee urination and defecation.
Data Broker
Jamming Wi-Fi to Force Conference Attendees to Use Hotel's Service
Progressive Talk Radio/Sacramento Radio Market
Private Sector Moral Police: Some Kentucky Pharmacies Restrict Access to Birth Control
Refusal to Process Payments for Condoms Because of Reputational Risk (Yet JP Morgan Chase's Chase Paymentech risks its parent firm's reputation on women's rights by denying service.)
Lobbying for anti-immigrant legislation at the state level by the Corrections Corporation of America.
  • Incompetence
Managerial Incompetence
Hedge-fund manager runs what's left of Sears into the dirt
Map Quest If it doesn't know the answer it will still give you directions out into the middle of nowhere. Also it wants to sell you a hotel room.
Mt. Gox Bitcoin Fiasco
Mediocre Performance of Chain Supermarkets in a Competitive Market
  • Amorality/Moral Indifference
Ashley Madison Effect
Chimerix Denies New Drug to Dying Child
Gilead Sciences demands $1,000 per pill for Hep C Treatment...No wait, they demand $1,125 per pill.
encouraging anti-social behavior Knee Defender
Psychopathic cruelty of gestation crates
Organ Brokerage
Selling donated blood.
  • Exploitation of the Vulnerable
Auto Title Loans and Pay Day Loans
College Loan Scam
Disaster Capitalism
Exploitation of Adjunct Professors; Adjunct Instructor: ‘I Was Practically Giving My Work Away. It was Charity.’
Eviction by Rent-a-cop proposed in Illinois
Just in Time Labor Exploitation of Part-Time Workers
Price Gouging by Hospitals
Reverse Mortgage Legally Scams the Elderly
Sewer Service
Teachers Offered Personal Loans to Pay For Their Student's School Supplies
Systemic Corruption of Institutional Nutriionists
Tenancy Fees charged by letting agents in London to renters.
union busting
Wage Theft
  • Perverse Incentives
Artificial Demand for domain names created by permission from ICANN to grant new internet suffixes as firms and individuals buy such "property" defensively. According to general counsel of the Association of National Advertisers Douglas Wood: "All that money is just wasted money because it's money thrown away to property rights that will never be used, never add to competition, never add to innovation, never do any of the things that ICANN is touting will be the great benefits of all these new top-level domains."
Discouraging Creativity by restricting tinkering to protect property rights “The Tinkerers”: How Corporations Kill Creativity Alec Foege. Salon. December 30, 2012.
  • Prices Unresponsive to Supply and Demand
Giant Amazon fish 'locally extinct' Due to Overfishing (low price unchanged despite scarcity) Zoe Gough. BBC News.
  • Threatening Health and Safety
Economy Class Syndrome
Slaughterhouse Sells Beef From Cattle With Cancer
Toxic Tampons


  • David Harvey. 2014. Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism. Oxford: New York. p. 7.


External LinksEdit


  • If people offer to sell you their financial investment expertise, why aren't they using it to make themselves rich in the market?