The Similarities Between Capitalism and Communism
The history of ideas is full of conflicts, and nothing can ever match up to the intense rivalry between capitalism and communism.
Being ideological opposites, both systems of thought were primarily economic creations. Modern capitalism was at its dawning during the Industrial Age. New systems for mass manufacturing made it possible for businessmen to generate profits rapidly. Economic activity in Europe and North America shifted from the farms to the factories. It opened the world to new avenues where innovation goes unhindered and everyone has the right to economic freedom, where wealth is equated with hard work.
But, individuals (most notably, Karl Marx and his associate Friederich Engels) had pointed out the problems capitalism entails. The alienation of workers and the dehumanization of labor became issues that made up the main critique against capitalism. Businessmen were getting rich at the expense of impoverished people who need to work (often in longer hours) in order to make a living under the economic system. Communism promises a utopia where wage slavery does not exist and individual freedom is above everything else. Numerous rebellions were initiated as a result, culminating in the 1917 Russian Revolution that created the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
While communism purportedly collapsed during the early 1990’s, its influence continues to linger in many scholars and professors who still lament the abusive excesses of capitalism. On the other hand, advocates of capitalist thought have brought about the dictatorial nature of communist systems, often calling those that support these systems as hypocrites.
With that said, it is difficult to imagine that both would coincide with each other. Still, we can point out several instances where they share a common ground.
Emphasis on individual freedom
While they have differing opinions along economic lines, both capitalism and communism sought to realize individuality in its purest form. For capitalism, this individuality can only be expressed by allowing a person to engage creatively within the system. Capitalism offers everyone an opportunity to “make it big.” And as long as a person wants to realize his successes, he must strive hard to attain it in the face of competition from others.
In contrast, though, communist thought points out that compensated labor is not the real way towards total freedom as it sees wages as tools of oppression. In its own case, communism imagines a society in which everyone gets an equal share of everything. Capitalism only favors those who were born in affluence and makes it increasingly harder for impoverished people to develop in their own terms. Communism tries to offer a way out by envisioning a utopia where individuality is expressed through collective means, or by working with others.
They can be oppressive
In many cases, both capitalism and communism have oppressive tendencies. Capitalist countries would often forego the welfare of their citizens in exchange for securing a suitable environment for business. Although some argue that this is essential to address the deeper concerns of poverty and underdevelopment, capitalist activities have not in fact addressed these as much of the fruits of these investments go back to the people who own the capital.
Communism, on the other hand, uses violent means to bring about the drastic transformation of a capitalist society into a communist one. The grudge it has against bureaucracies, aristocrats and business people has given it a bad light.
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