Capitalism is an economic system in which most people receive a wage or salary working in corporations for a small number of people who run those corporations and appropriate the resulting surplus in the form of profits.
That’s not a definition you’ll find in mainstream economics textbooks or most political debates these days. But it does capture what is distinctive about capitalism compared to other economic systems.
We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up