Skip to main content

Capitalism as a Power Structure

Capitalism is a power structure.

That is a simple statement, but because it runs so deeply contrary to basic precepts of Western propaganda, it becomes a difficult statement for people to understand or engage with after decades immersed in the aforementioned propaganda. Thus, I feel compelled to try to find other ways of saying the same thing in the hopes of improving my chances of being understood.1

Capitalism is a arrangement and organization of power. It is a philosophy, system, and organizing principle that helps determine who has what and how much power in various situations and settings.

Under capitalism, the people with more capital have more power and the people with less capital have less power.

Sometimes the capitalist power structure is clear and explicit. Corporations are controlled by their shareholders, the people who own or control the capital. The more shares (capital) a person controls, the more power they have over the company.

Sometimes the capitalist power structure is entirely implicit. When political invective includes phrases like “taxpayer” or “homeowner” they are making a distinction between people who control some capital and people who control less, with the implication that political power should be bent more towards those who control more capital.

Most commonly, capitalism is implemented by a mix of explicit and implicit structures interacting in complex ways to benefit people with capital over people without. To take one example, in the criminal legal system is supposed to treat everyone the same, but at every layer, people who control more capital have advantages over those who don’t.

Criminal defendants hire attorneys whose fees vary in proportion to their ability to get favorable outcomes for their clients. The more capital a defendant controls, the better legal defense they can mount. In the weeks or months until their trial, wealthy people remain free on bond. Those who do not control enough capital to post their bond spend that time in jails, away from their jobs, families, and communities, in horrific conditions that DAs use to extract confessions and plea bargains. Even before that, wealthy people live can afford to live in areas are less policed, reducing their likelihood of becoming suspects and defendants in the first place.

Capitalism, as a power structure, is pervasive in the world we live in. It is embedded in the root of the systems that most define and control our lives. It surrounds us and becomes how we see and interact with the people, structures, and world around us. And it serves the interests of people with more capital over the interests of those with less.

  1. I am, of course, aware of that using terms like “western propaganda” will enrage some readers and make them even less likely to understand. There is a limit to how far I am willing to tone myself down today.