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Capitalism is an economic and social system in which capital, the non-labor factors of production (also known as the means of production), isprivately owned;[citation needed] labor, goods and capital are traded in markets; and profits distributed to owners or invested in technologies andindustries.

There is no consensus on the definition of capitalism, nor how it should be used as an analytical category.[1] There are a variety of historical cases over which it is applied, varying in time, geography, politics and culture.[2] Economistspolitical economists and historians have taken different perspectives on the analysis of capitalism. Scholars in the social sciences, including historians, economic sociologists, economists, anthropologists and philosophers have debated over how to define capitalism, however there is little controversy that private ownership of the means of production, creation of goods or services for profit in a market, and prices and wages are elements of capitalism.[3]

Economists usually put emphasis on the market mechanism, degree of government control over markets (laissez faire), and property rights[4][5], while most political economists emphasize private propertypower relations, wage labor, and class.[6] There is a general agreement that capitalism encourages economic growth.[7] The extent to which different markets are "free", as well as the rules determining what may and may not be private property, is a matter of politics and policy and many states have what are termed "mixed economies."[6]

Capitalism as a system developed incrementally from the 16th century in Europe,[8] although capitalist-like organizations existed in the ancient world, and early aspects of merchant capitalism flourished during the Late Middle Ages.[9][10][11] Capitalism became dominant in the Western worldfollowing the demise of feudalism.[11] Capitalism gradually spread throughout Europe, and in the 19th and 20th centuries, it provided the main means of industrialization throughout much of the world.[2]

Variants on capitalism may include, depending on the theorist, such concepts as anarcho-capitalismcorporate capitalismcrony capitalismfinance capitalismlaissez-faire capitalismtechnocapitalismNeo-Capitalismlate capitalismpost-capitalismstate capitalism and state monopoly capitalism. There are also anti-capitalist movements and ideologies including Anti-capitalism and negative associations with the system such astragedy of the commonscorporatism and wage slavery.

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