While it is more common to set capitalism and communism in opposition, with communism demonized in capitalist society, both are economic systems that offer a vision of a material utopian telos, or end—an end which each system claims could be realized if it could be realized in pure form. Neither, however, has come close to delivering the promised new Eden.
Capitalism rests its vision of an Edenic future on individual ownership and competition. Individuals are allowed to own land and goods for their own profit. In pure capitalism, the state does not own any property or interfere with markets. In contrast, under communism, all assets first pass into the hands of the state, a transitional period that precedes the withering of the state and which will end in communal ownership of all property for the good of all.
While economies are organized differently under the two systems, the end goal of both is maximizing the material wellbeing and happiness for all people. Each system claims to be the conduit for delivering the good life to society at large—capitalism by honing efficiency and achievement through competition, and communism through eradicating unfair concentrations of wealth and exploitation of the many by the few.
Capitalism argues that it can best produce wealth, which, if initially concentrated, will eventually lift all boats and benefit the entire social system. Communism argues, in turn, that it will free society of the shackles of capitalism that are a drag on overall growth, such as banks charging high interest for loans, debt that drags down debtors only to enrich a few, and a parasitic class that produces nothing but lives on the labor of others. This liberation of capital will cause a surge in economic growth and widespread prosperity.
Both systems are alike in having been proven thus far unrealizable in pure form: reality shows that the most successful economies, such as the US economy from 1945–1971, incorporate aspects of both economic theories.