Capitalism

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Nineteenth and twentieth-century Sociology applies this term to the socioeconomic system whose motivating force is the accumulation of capital. Different schools of sociology give different interpretations to the content and historical role of this economic system. Positivist sociologists find such regimes not only in modern times but in antiquity and the Middle Ages as well. Marxists see in c. a “socioeconomic formation,” a necessary and inevitable stage in universal historical evolution. Sociologists of the economic neo-liberal school consider the capitalist system the goal and final stage of world history. All of these perspectives suffer from an economic reductionism, viewing the crisis of contemporary society as limited to the crisis of specific socioeconomic systems. The socioeconomic regime is part of a far more complex social structure that comprises the concrete historical sociocultural system of a given time. The economic base of c. is the private ownership of the means of production and the exploitation of wage labor. The principal classes are the bourgeoisie and the proletariat (the working class), although over time both have undergone radical changes in composition. N.H. strongly condemns the amoral and exploitative character of this system. Humanists support the interests of workers who are struggling against the direction of present-day c. Contemporary c. is responsible for generating growing unemployment and marginalizing wide sectors of society across vast regions of the world.