What are the characteristics of a capitalist society?

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kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A capitalist society has a number of key characteristics. In capitalist systems, most property is privately owned. This is, in fact, a defining characteristic of a capitalist society and means that property, including businesses and other services, tend to be owned and operated by individuals, not by the state. (Total public ownership of property is a feature of communism, a theory which stands in contrast to capitalism.) 

In a capitalist system, competition between businesses and the prices of goods and services are generally determined by the factors of supply and demand. If cars are in low supply but in high demand, for example, you can expect to pay a higher price. Conversely, if the supply increases, the price will go down. 

Finally, in a capitalist society, the government tends to play a more minimal economic role. This is also known as laissez-faire.

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many characteristics of such a society.  We will look at two here.

First, capitalist societies tend to have more freedom than non-capitalist societies.  Capitalism promotes the idea of rule of law and of a certain "anything goes" spirit.  Capitalism involves constant change, breaking down traditions and social barriers.

Second, capitalist societies involve competition that can be very intense.  Such societies often have less social cohesion than other societies because of the competitive attitude that capitalism requires.

These characteristics make capitalist societies ones in which people can do (relatively speaking) whatever they want, but this freedom comes at the cost of losing social cohesion and personal economic security.