For many, this looks like an irrelevant question, because the answer seems so evident. But definitions are very important to avoid confusion. This is my personal definition, but I’m not so vain as to believe I came up with this idea; I’m just not sure who I am plagiarizing when I express all my opinions. I must mention, however, Marx, as my most prominent source of inspiration.
To start with, capitalism for me is not a system, but an ideology. Many people think of capitalism as they think of democracy: It’s not a perfect system, but it’s the best one we have. But it’s not the same. Democracy is an easy concept and everyone knows when a political system stops being democratic; there are no degrees. However, an economic system may be more or less capitalistic than another. Many people associate free market with capitalism, which is the greatest mistake. Because these same people label “communist” or “socialist” any governmental intervention in the market, but this is simply: Interventionism. Now, whether a government should intervene in the economy of a country or not is another issue. Many people are mistaken about communism and socialism too, maybe even Marx himself. They are not systems but ideologies. Communism may be established democratically, in a free market, as it may be established by force, in a completely regulated market. I’ll define communism as I understood it from Marx’s words, even though he may have defined it differently: Communism is the idea that the Earth, as well as all its reaches, belong to us all, and that work is a common effort to thrive.
Now I’ll define what capitalism is not: Love for material things. Materialism is something personal: Some people like accumulating things or living expensive experiences and others focus their efforts on their inner world. That has nothing to do with capitalism. A person who saves money to buy a house or raise a child is not a capitalist but a prudent person. A person that saves for journeys or spends it all in shopping centers and restaurants is not a capitalist either but just someone who enjoys life day to day and who doesn’t care much about the future. However capitalism is simple too, but it must be well defined: Capitalism is making money for the sake of money. Because capitalism comes from: Capital, money or goods that are used to create more money or goods. Capital may be actually considered the opposite of money. Because money was created with one main purpose: To be current, to circulate among people and help create links between them. But capital is anti-social, even inhuman. Capital is money hoarded, as in a monopoly, so as to wield power over other people who don’t have money. Capital is not investment; invested money is not capital. Capital sits around and waits till the system collapses so it will be the richer for it. Capital is evil; it’s a positive desire to benefit from other people’s miseries. In general, capitalistic actions go hand in hand with exploitative ones, profiting from the circumstances: low salaries, irresponsible exploitation of natural resources. Because the ideology of the capitalist is that he earned his money and he deserves to earn and live better than the rest. Thus, a capitalist may be even a doctor who, when he chose fields of studies, he took into account the potential economic advantages of that career, and now that he’s working, he thinks he deserves more than a nurse who works as hard as him. This man is capitalistic because he’s using his intelligence and knowledge just to earn more money, and not for the betterment of society. A doctor should earn more in account of the difficulty and hardship of his task, but not only because he has a diploma that says he is smart. The problem in a capitalistic society is that it commodifies people, including them in the laws of the market. Thus a person becomes a disposable asset whose worth does not depend on the value of his work but on the quantity of other people able to perform the same task. Thus a capitalist society forces laborers to compete for salaries, instead of giving them their fair due.