Thursday, April 16, 2009

The etymology of capitalism

From Economic Expert :

The lexical roots of the word capital reveal roots in the trade and ownership of animals. The Latin root of the word capital is capitalis, from the proto-Indo-Europeankaput, which means "head", this being how wealth was measured. The more heads of cattle, the better. The terms chattel (meaning goods, animals, or slaves) and even cattle itself also derive from this same origin.
The lexical connections between animal trade and economics can also be seen in the names of many currencies and words about money: fee (faihu), rupee (rupya), buck (a deerskin), pecuniary (pecu), stock (livestock), and peso (pecu or pashu) all derive from animal-trade origins.
Often thought of as the "father of capitalist thinking," Adam Smith himself never used the term. He described his own preferred economic system as "the system of natural libertyThe word liberty when used alone, has several possible meanings in the English language see Liberty disambiguation for other possible uses. Liberty or personal freedom, is a condition in which an individual has immunity from the arbitrary exercise of auth." Though popular with Marxists, the word "capitalism" was in fact neither used by Karl MarxKarl Heinrich Marx ( May 5, 1818 March 14, 1883) was an influential German economist, philosopher, social and political theorist. Although Marx addressed many issues in his career as a journalist and philosopher, he is most famous for his analysis of hist, who only spoke about capital, to refer to the relationship between owners (capitalists) and workers ( proletarians). Although it is not clear who used the word in its current, systemic context first, it was coined and introduced into the economic - and general - discourse by Werner Sombart with his 1906 classic, Modern Capitalism.



From Answers.com :

US Supreme Court: Capitalism

The word “capitalism” does not appear often in Supreme Court opinions. Further, nearly all the references before 1950 are pejorative, appearing in first amendment cases involving the right to make statements attacking capitalism as an institution. Examples include United States v. Debs (1919), where the defendant attacked capitalism as a cause of war, and Abrams v. United States (1919). In addition, Justice Louis D. Brandeis used the term occasionally in dissenting opinions to speak about the evils of uncontrolled capitalism (Liggett v. Lee, 1933; Maple Flooring Manufacturers Association v. United States, 1925).

The Supreme Court has always occupied a central position in the development of American capitalist institutions since the beginning of the nineteenth century. The Constitution's framers envisioned a regime in which most decisions about the allocation of goods and services should be private. The Contracts Clause, the Commerce Clause, the Due Process Clause, and the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment are strong examples of that commitment. Through its interpretation of the Constitution and a wide array of federal and state statutes and common law rules, the Supreme Court has defined the balance between individual prerogative and the independence of markets on the one hand, and sovereign power to interfere on the other.

[ ... ]

Quotes About: Capitalism

"Making capitalism out of socialism is like making eggs out of an omelet."  - Vadim Bakatin

"Fact is Our Lord knew all about the power of money: He gave capitalism a tiny niche in His scheme of things, He gave it a chance, He even provided a first installment of funds. Can you beat that? It's so magnificent. God despises nothing. After all, if the deal had come off, Judas would probably have endowed sanatoriums, hospitals, public libraries or laboratories." - Georges Bernanos

"Capitalism without bankruptcy is like Christianity without hell." - Frank Borman

"The most eloquent eulogy of capitalism was made by its greatest enemy. Marx is only anti-capitalist in so far as capitalism is out of date." - Albert Camus

"Predatory capitalism created a complex industrial system and an advanced technology; it permitted a considerable extension of democratic practice and fostered certain liberal values, but within limits that are now being pressed and must be overcome. It is not a fit system for the mid-twentieth century." - Noam Chomsky

"The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent vice of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries." - Winston Churchill

Wikipedia: Capitalism

The etymology of the word capital has roots in the trade and ownership of animals. The Latin root of the capital is capitalis, from the proto-Indo-European kaput, which means "head", this being how wealth was measured. The terms chattel and cattle itself also derive from this same origin.

The lexical connections between animal trade and economics can also be seen in the names of many currencies and words about money: fee (faihu), rupee (rupya), buck (a deerskin), pecuniary (pecu), stock (livestock), and peso (pecu or pashu) all derive from animal-trade origins.

Although he is often described as the "father of capitalist thinking," Adam Smith himself never used the term "capitalism". He described his own preferred economic system as "the system of natural liberty." However, Smith defined "capital" as stock, and "profit" as the just expectation to keep the revenue from improvements to that stock. Smith also made capital improvement the central goal of the economic and political system.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, capitalism was first used by novelist William Makepeace Thackeray in 1854, by which he meant by having ownership of capital. Arthur Young] first used the term capitalist of his economic surveys in his work Travels in France (1792). Samuel Taylor Coleridge, an English poet, used capitalist in his work Table Talk (1823), and Benjamin Disraeli used capitalist in the 1845 work Sybil.

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon used capitalist is his first work What is Property? (1840) to refer to the owners of capital. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels also used capitalist (Kapitalist) as a private owner of capital in The Communist Manifesto (1848), and referred the capitalistic system (kapitalistischen System) to the capitalist mode of production (kapitalistische Produktionsform) in Das Kapital (1867). The word "capitalism" only appears twice in "Das Kapital", namely in tome II, p.124 (German edition) and in Theories about Surplus Value, tome 2 p.493 (German edition). However, the late Engels made more frequent use of the term "capitalism". Marx's notion of the capitalist mode of production is characterised as a system of primarily private ownership of the means of production in a mainly market economy, with a legal framework on commerce and a physical infrastructure provided by the state.

According to the OED, Carl Adolph Douai, a German-American socialist and abolitionist, used private capitalism in 1863. A work entitled Better Times (1877) and an unknown author in 1884 of the Pall Mall Gazette also used capitalism.

However, the first use of capitalism to describe the production system was the German economist Werner Sombart, in his 1902 book The Jews and Modern Capitalism (Die Juden und das Wirtschaftsleben). Sombart's close friend and colleague, Max Weber, also used capitalism in his 1904 book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Die protestantische Ethik und der Geist des Kapitalismus).


From Anarchopedia :

Why does no one agree what capitalism is?

It's hard to answer this objectively. Apparently there has never been a clear agreement about the linguistic, economic, ethical and moral implications, that is, the "political economy" of capitalism itself.

Rather like a governing political party that everyone seeks to control, regardless of ideology, the definition of "capitalism" at any given time tends to reflect the current conflicts between interest groups.

The non-obvious combinations demonstrate the complexity of the debate. For instance, Joseph Schumpeter claimed in 1962 that capitalism was more efficient than any alternative, but doomed due to its complex and abstract rationale which the ordinary citizen would not ultimately defend.

Also, the overlapping claims confuse most debaters. Ayn Rand made an original defense of capitalism as a moral code, but her arguments for its efficiency were not original, and selected to support her moral claims. Karl Marx believed capitalism inefficient and unfair at the administration of an immoral purpose, and thus ultimately unsustainable. John McMurtry, a current commentator within the anti-globalization movement, believes it has become increasingly fair at the administration of this immoral purpose. Robin Hanson, another current commentator, asks if fitness and fairness and morality can ever really be separated by other than electoral political means?

1 comment:

jonnythrombosis said...

excellent stuff - thanks for sharing!!!

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