Many social philosophers have expressed a desire to end capitalism as the dominant mode of production. However, I take it as an unavoidable fact of nature that labor of some form is necessary. Humans, being organisms, need to sustain themselves, and to do that they must put in work somehow - be it by fashioning tools and hunting wild animals, or trading time for currency that can be used to buy food, water, shelter, etc. So, given that labor is unavoidable (especially so in a world where none are living off of the exploitation of the labor of others), how do anti-capitalists envision labor in a world without capitalism?

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    Labor is avoidable by employing machines to do the work. Then the question becomes, who controls the machines? We already have been ruled by the machine owners since the industrial revolution, and this trend will increase as technology improves, making human workers increasingly unnecessary.
    – causative
    Sep 16, 2021 at 18:10
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    Can you edit saying which philosophers stated that and where? Just to have a context. For what I know, socialism (in its "standard" form) express the need to have a capitalistic production system, to be able to fulfill the needs of a large population. Instead what changes can be the redistribution process, the structure of the industrial system...
    – Ratman
    Sep 16, 2021 at 19:15
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    The question is oddly set up. Capitalism is only 4 centuries old and people were around for tens of thousands of years, so why should laboring under something else be a problem?
    – Conifold
    Sep 16, 2021 at 20:57
  • Late-capitalism, post-industrialism, post-modernism, globalisation, a common hegemony (economic, social, cultural). If, as some say, the human population will rise to 10bn by some year, and what they predict in terms of limited availability of essential things like drinking water, food, and if climate change results in mass-migration of hundreds of millions, and if we pollute the environment beyond repair - then what could await is a complete totalitarianism rooted not in a desire to oppress, but out of sheer necessity to preserve what little remains of the natural world. Oh, and The Internet.
    – user48972
    Sep 16, 2021 at 22:12
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    Possible duplicate of 'Philosophers on alternatives to capitalism and communism' philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/67075/… You should have a look at the anthropological history of money: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debt:_The_First_5000_Years
    – CriglCragl
    Sep 17, 2021 at 10:44

2 Answers 2


The Routledge Dictionary of Economics gives 4 definitions of capitalism, although it acknowledges that Marx was critical of these definitions:

  • A socioeconomic system of production using roundabout methods of production.

Labor in this system will look the same as labor under a non-capitalist system. The difference is in how the capital generated by the labor is used. In capitalism, enough capital is generated to produce profit and that profit is used to improve the efficiency of capital production. If either of those two steps are missing, under this definition the economic system is not capitalism. I would argue that the economic system of indigenous North-East American tribes would fit this description based on lectures given by a college professor.

  • An economy based on private enterprise.

Two definitions are provided by the same source for 'private enterprise'. The first references capitalism, and would therefor result in a paradox if used in conjunction with this definition. The other is "The private sector of an economy," and private sector is defined as "That part of the economy consisting of firms owned by legal persons other than the state." Therefor, a economic system is not capitalism if the majority of economic activity is done by firms owned by the state. The USSR* is the traditional example of such a economy.*

  • The use of markets not planning to allocate economic resources.

'Markets' are defined as "A medium for exchanges between buyers and sellers." Therefor, non-capitalist economies have exchanging planned by entities besides the buyers and sellers. Unless you define 'exchange' so generally to make it applicable to every social system, which is one of Marx's criticisms, the tradition kibbutz fulfills this definition.

  • Production motivated by the profit motive.

Under this definition, two economic system that are identical can be categorized differently if the culture of one's society values the profit motive while the other's does not. Labor would look identical.

Modern opponents of capitalism in Western societies, in my experience, have defined capitalism using the first or third definitions and endorse the economic systems I described there.

Edit: I found a free version of the dictionary so I changed the link.

  • Surely crucial is defining against feudalism, & the creation of joint-stock enterprises with tradeable shares, which allowed wealth to accrue by means other than land? I don't like any of the definitions you give.
    – CriglCragl
    Sep 17, 2021 at 10:39

From Chomsky: A Life of Dissent, page 26

Homage to Catalonia, Orwell's description of the Spanish conflict, which he wrote after completing a stint as an active member of the POUM militia, is still a book to which people (including Chomsky) who are interested in successful socialist or anarchist movements refer, because it gives an accurate and moving description of a working libertarian society.

Homage to Catalonia is available on Audible.

  • Libertarian? Not in the modern sense. Even at the time, the system in Catalonia was described as anarcho-syndicalist
    – CriglCragl
    Sep 17, 2021 at 10:41

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