Capitalism is an economic system in which trade, industry and the means of production are controlled by private owners with the goal of making profits in a market economy.[1][2] Central characteristics of capitalism include capital accumulation, competitive markets and wage labor.[3] In a capitalist economy, the parties to a transaction typically determine the prices at which assets, goods, and services are exchanged.[4]

The degree of competition, role of intervention and regulation, and scope of public ownership varies across different models of capitalism.[5] Economists, political economists, and historians have taken different perspectives in their analysis of capitalism and recognized various forms of it in practice. These include laissez-faire capitalism, welfare capitalism and state capitalism; each highlighting varying degrees of dependency on markets, public ownership, and inclusion of social policies. The extent to which different markets are free, as well as the rules defining private property, is a matter of politics and policy. Many states have what are termed capitalist mixed economies, referring to a mix between planned and market-driven elements.[6] Crony capitalism, is a state of affairs in which insider corruption, nepotism and cartels dominate the system. In Marxian economics this is considered to be the normal state of mature capitalism, while in anarcho-capitalist theory it is considered a political distortion of capital and markets.[7]

Capitalism has existed under many forms of government, in many different times, places, and cultures.[8] Following the demise of feudalism, capitalism became the dominant economic system in the Western world. Later, in the 20th century, capitalism overcame a challenge by centrally-planned economies and is now the dominant system worldwide,[9][10] with the mixed economy being its dominant form in the industrialized Western world.

Different economic perspectives emphasize specific elements of capitalism in...