Capitalism is an economic system in which the central axis is private property. Its basic definition implies the implementation of various means of production intended to generate income. However, this definition must be analyzed more broadly as it includes important concepts, such as competitiveness within financial markets; the complex system of price allocation, costs and salaries, the accumulation of wealth, the voluntary exchange of working hours for remuneration, etc. The definition of capitalism is not absolute and is continuously evolving, selecting the levels of intensity in competitiveness; in the regulation of governments; and in the free market.
Late capitalism, as the name suggests, describes a late stage of the assimilation of norms in which the generation of wealth within society operates. Among its general features are the concentration of wealth in few but powerful companies; dependence on governments to stabilize the economic system, the existence of democracy to legitimize its operation (at the same time dispelling the opposition), and the strict application of nominal wages to calm the workforce and prevent them from rebelling. One of its notable characteristics is its ability to adapt and endure through cultural revolutions, political overthrows, and social transitions of various kinds. In today’s current geopolitical environment, this new version of capitalism describes how developing countries are controlled by the export of capital, as well as the inequitable exchanges in the global market and the existence of monopolies. Those who manage capital today focus their attention on the gaps that exist in market regulation to ensure the survival of capitalism.
In the history of economics, early capitalism defined a temporal order in the structure of society, one disrupted after World War II. This disruption gave way to the arrival of a new stage, known as late capitalism and which is marked by the trend towards technological innovation, inflation motivated by the granting of credits and by the trance between colonial societies towards a neocolonial environment.
The concept of pure capitalism, or free market, can be defined through the French expression Laissez-faire, or laissez-passer, which means “let do, let pass.” In essence, it is a trend that advocates for the absence of government regulations to the market, with the specific objective of economic benefit. Not motivated by any intellectual tendency, it is often criticized for its lack of restrictions, which tips the balance against workers’ social guarantees. However, the fall of national barriers based on global markets is an indicator that the free market has managed to establish itself in a powerful way, making evident the inability of governments to control how current capitalist systems function. A negative feature of this conception of capitalism is that it tends not to pay attention to the quality of products, as well as any environmental protections, or respect for human rights.
Finance capitalism refers to a system or network between trusts, banks, and monopolies. By the early twentieth century, Marxism began highlighting the role of financial capital as the specific interest of the ruling class, anticipating subsequent stages of development, like the one we are currently in more than a century later. It is in the current scenario that the banking management of capital has become the backbone of international capitalism. Some view it as a form of “financial or commercial dictatorship,” that does not seem to show signs of decline, neither in the short or long term.
Mercantilism is an early form of capitalism that emerged at the end of the 16th century characterized by an approach in which the interests of national businesses match the interests of the State and imperialism. This partnership made it possible for the state apparatus to catapult those interests abroad. With these strategies, better defined as control mechanisms, the acquisition of goods and trade between various countries, colonies, and producers were regulated. Today mercantilism is perceived as a kind of primitive version of capitalism with the misconception, or at least naivete, that the wealth of a nation can grow through a positive balance of trade with other countries.
State capitalism consists of an economy fully controlled by the government. In this system, it is necessary that companies be State-owned, or operated as subsidiaries, as well as rigorous control of the market for profit. These types of economic projects increased throughout the twentieth century and are characterized by the appointment of bureaucrats in management positions. The current versions of state capitalisms differ because they are publicly traded and efficient thanks to significant institutional investments. The reflection on its effectiveness addresses aspects such as its productive capacity and the fair distribution of wealth.
The concept of State capitalism can be used pejoratively to describe the negative influence of the state on business. An alternative definition refers to the close and virtuous relationship that can be fostered between states and private entrepreneurs. Within this type of relationship, these companies have the guarantee of entering a market. The result of this relationship can be seen, for example, in governments’ involvement with planning, decision making, and investment in energy and transportation. The critical debate about the existence of this model has its origins in the early twentieth century within Marxism. China is, however, a current model of state capitalism. The difference between this system and state socialism is that in the second, there can’t be private companies or any competition.
Community capitalism can be described as a way of understanding the interaction between society and the market, always placing people’s well-being at the center of the debate. This current seeks to maintain respect for the environment while ensuring the production of goods is not harming it. Historically, there has been antagonism between this concept of capitalism and so-called “pure capitalism” since the latter advocates for unrestricted freedom in doing business leaving community interests in second place. The social profile of community capitalism demonstrates its effectiveness in European countries, especially in the north of that continent; as well as in Australia.
Concentrated mostly in Japan, so-called infantile capitalism responds to a series of sociocultural factors produced in the extraordinary situation where there is a loss of transcendental values, extreme industrialization, and corporatism. Several generations have already passed through a model of market operation that reduces negotiations and competitiveness to something similar to children playing. The “childish” attitude of the various agents that make up this version of post-industrial capitalism is, however, very descriptive of the real mechanisms in which markets currently operate globally. Beyond this interpretation, the behavior of individuals living in these societies (in this case Japanese people) can manifest as, on the one hand, high levels of professionalism in various areas that propel the economy, and on the other, giving the impression of being absorbed in a childlike state. For this reason, infantile capitalism can be defined as the arrival of a utopian world; or on the contrary as a terrible dystopia.
Social capitalism is a model of capitalism generationally linked to millennials, which raises new paradigms regarding the production of wealth. It is not the same as socio-capitalism, a concept associated with economic models of the Latin American left. Nor does it have to do with the so-called “Capitalism of the Rhine” (also known as Social Capitalism). Instead, this new definition has to do with the immense access to information on the internet and, particularly, social media. It is a virtual world in which likes, shares, and followers become decisive meters for the value of things. Terms like Influencer or Youtuber describe key figures in this system. It is a type of capitalism that occurs in virtual spaces and follows very diverse market laws with the objective of “socializing” and “viralizing.” On the other hand, social capitalism is driven by collaboration and exchange. It replaces a hierarchical order in which there is a physical person controlling everything with a self-organized system setup by software programmers, applications, and components. Thus, we see how new forms of capital production arise, such as the so-called crowdfunding, sales groups, online stores, online courses.
In 1984 Harvard professor Alfred D. Chandler Jr (United States, 1918–2007) defined managerial capitalism as a particular form of capitalism prevailing throughout most of the 20th century characterized by the domination of large bureaucratic organizations in the market. This system differed from earlier versions of capitalism in which decision making depended directly on the owners. According to some scholars, this was due to various factors such as the arrival of information technology; intellectual capital growth; the development of professions within the system, and the emergence of new models of organizational structures.
Shareholder capitalism (or of shareholders) is an economic system in which the dominant corporate model is legally independent companies that can condense capital from different shareholders with limited liability, and is complemented by an open stock market that can freely exchange royalties.
Turbo-capitalism refers to an unregulated form of capitalism that began in the 1980s and is characterized by a lack of regulation in banks and financial systems, as well as privatization and low-interest rates for those with a higher income. These benefits encourage banks to take risks and gain profit through sophisticated financial strategies, rather than the traditional loan scheme. Furthermore, the existence of monopolies and the reduction of labor rights are encouraged. There is a suspicion that this capitalist model contributed significantly to the creation of a credit bubble between 2001 and 2007 that proved unsustainable and caused a global crisis.
Responsible capitalism refers to a tendency within the free market economy in which government regulation seeks to avoid the inequalities characteristic of capitalism, and its excesses. For this model to work, a protectionist vision by the State towards the unemployed and the low-income population is essential. This system is only possible by demanding higher taxes to those who earn the most. Therefore, the development of the private sector is stimulated while the State is responsible for sectors such as health, education, and public transport.
An oligarchy is a way of describing how a handful of successful businesses can have influence by peddling with public servants, politicians occupying high positions, or anyone with authority. Although there were examples of this corrupt model of capitalism in the early twentieth century, especially in the United States, it is probably much more widespread today in Asian and Latin American countries.
Advanced capitalism, or consumer capitalism, is a concept stemming from political science. It depends on the demand for consumer goods at the center of commercial exchange, especially within the manipulation model of potential buyers who purchase products through seduction. For this system to endure, the model must be firmly established with widespread social acceptance and nearly non-existent political activism. It is a system in which excesses are the norm.
In the conservative sphere of international politics, the term popular capitalism has been coined to suggest a State’s commitment to community welfare. For this to occur, it implies an essential degree of redistribution of goods and the guarantee of a certain level of social security for the general population. However, the vagueness about such commitments has been criticized within intellectual circles and has been revealed as a possible cause of populism by presenting itself as an attractive proposal to voters. It is unlikely that neoliberal and right-wing governments are willing to regulate the financial sector to prevent social inequality.
Surveillance capitalism is a recent variation of the market with a specific logic based on the accumulation of capital through an algorithmic and computer strategy for extracting information related to the profiles, differentiated and extremely detailed, of the members of society. Through an almost machiavellian approach, data is compiled and translated to commodify all aspects of life. There are apps for everything. This impressive database contains behavioral data regarding millions of users and is intended to analyze and transform them into sales. There is a global architecture of computational mediation that presents itself as a new expression of totalitarian power that threatens basic concepts like freedom, democracy, and privacy.
Cognitive-cultural capitalism is represented by sectors such as high-tech industry, business & financial services, personal services, the media, and cultural industries. It is characterized by digital technologies combined with high levels of cognitive and cultural work.
The concept of a cultural-cognitive economy is often associated with “postfordism,” “knowledge economy,” “new economy,” and highly flexible labor markets.
As Fordist mass production began to decline after the mid and late 1970s in advanced capitalist countries, a more flexible system of production began to take its place. The concept of cognitive-cultural capitalism has developed in response to the inadequacy of the interpretations of this transition from a Fordist model to a post-Fordist system of “flexible accumulation,” as Carlo Vercellone describes it.
The first empirical studies of this new system were published in the 1980s based on case study materials focused primarily on high-tech industrial districts in the United States (Silicon Valley, Orange County, Boston Route 128, etc. See Saxenian) and revived the artisan industries in the northeast and central Italy (the so-called Third Italy). During the following decades, considerable empirical and theoretical advances were made based on studies of the new cultural economy (fashion, cinema, electronic games, publications, etc.).
Levy and Murnane in The New Division of Labor highlight the replacement of standardized machinery in the US production system with digital technologies that not only act as a substitute for routine work but also complement and improve the intellectual and emotional aspects of manual labor. These new technologies underpinned a considerable expansion in the technology, services, financial, artisan, and cultural industries that became the heart of the cognitive-cultural economy.
Cognitive capitalism theorists postulate that this system focuses on the accumulation of intangible assets, particularly those related to product core information protected by intellectual property rights through legal means—for example, the use of patents. Patents used by brands in the pharmaceutical, agribusiness, and software (Microsoft) sectors allow the creation of a surplus-value resulting from monopoly rents. The contradiction in cognitive capitalism is that the products themselves are generally cheap to produce, so they are kept in a state of artificial scarcity through the protection of intellectual property. Cognitive capitalism is associated with the process of a private appropriation of Information Commons.
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