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Comparing Anarchism, Capitalism, Fascism & Communism

Brenna Adams, Nate Sullivan, Lesley Chapel
  • Author
    Brenna Adams

    Brenna has a joint Master of Arts degree in Sociolinguistics and Multilingualism from Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany and Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Lithuania. She also has a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Linguistics and French Language from the University of Nevada, Reno. She works as a freelance writer and is committed to pursuing lifelong educational goals that transcends borders.

  • Instructor
    Nate Sullivan

    Nate Sullivan holds a M.A. in History and a M.Ed. He is an adjunct history professor, middle school history teacher, and freelance writer.

  • Expert Contributor
    Lesley Chapel

    Lesley has taught American and World History at the university level for the past seven years. She has a Master's degree in History.

Learn the details of anarchism, capitalism, fascism, and communism. Discover the differences of fascism vs communism, what the opposite of capitalism is, and how anarchism works. Updated: 11/25/2021

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Political Philosophies

Political philosophies are beliefs about how and why governments, institutions, and individuals interact to form a society. Such ideologies form based on ethical or moral beliefs driven by socio-cultural constructions and historical events. These philosophies can generally be defined by two qualities that work in tandem:

  • Formal authority
  • Social liberties

Political philosophies can range from authoritarian ones that value and respect formalized state powers; to libertarian ones that reject powerful state authority. They also range from left-leaning or liberal ideologies that value individual socio-economic liberties; to right-leaning or conservative ideologies that value traditional socio-economic rules and practices. The image below is a four-quadrant political compass that illustrates the authoritarian vs. libertarian scale on the vertical axis and the left vs. right socio-economic liberties scale on the horizontal axis:


Political philosophies fit into this compass based on how they value formal authority, economic practices, and social rights

four quadrant political compass of fascism vs communism vs capitalism vs anarchism

The four political philosophies discussed here: anarchism, capitalism, fascism, and communism represent different points of this political spectrum. The table outlines these systems further with some examples of these philosophies:

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  • 0:04 American Political…
  • 1:27 Anarchism
  • 2:34 Capitalism
  • 3:47 Fascism
  • 4:47 Communism
  • 6:24 Lesson Summary
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Political Philosophy Ideology Examples
Anarchism Rejection of authority
No or limited formalized state or government
Values individual liberties
Ancient Greek cynicism
Gandhi's anti-colonial liberation movement in India
Capitalism An economic system
Free market economies driven by supply and demand over government intervention
Privatization of the means of production (labor) and the goods produced
Liberal market economy: the US, the United Kingdom
Coordinated market economy: Germany, Japan
Fascism An authoritarian government wherein the state has all the power
Conservative, traditional social values that encourage uniformity
Single or few ruling parties
Nazi Germany
Fascist Italy under Mussolini
Imperial Japan
Communism An authoritarian government wherein the state owns all property and wealth that is allocated to individuals
Values individual equality and uniformity
Classless society; elimination of social hierarchy
Soviet Union
China
Cuba

Philosophies Through History

When opposing political ideologies are enacted, violent conflict is often a result. The history of this type of violence is long, as there have always been conflicts that arise from differing political views. For example, the rise of fascism in Nazi Germany during World War II led to a great deal of violence and strife on a global scale when other nations fought against fascist ideologies.

Violence can also derive within a state, such as the often-bloody conflicts led by citizens of countries within the Soviet Union during its fall. For example, when the people of the Baltic nations, like Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, revolted against the government, the Soviets responded with violence against their citizens.

Anarchism

Anarchism rejects formalized authority in place of self-governance at the individual level. Its related term, "anarchy," suggests a complete lack of organized government and political hierarchy. Anarchism manifests in many ways because the primary component of this ideology is the rejection of authority, not alignment with social liberties. Thus, anarchists can have left-leaning views that lead them to practice communalized governance by individuals; or conversely, they might align with right-leaning views that lead them to embrace the free market and conservative ideals.

Socialist anarchism, or "anti-capitalism," is an anarchist ideology that rejects the validity of capitalist governance. From a socialist-anarchist perspective, collectivization and communalization are important values through individual governance rather than formalized institutions. Conversely, libertarian anarchism, or "anarcho-capitalism," emphasizes reliance on individualism and rejects collaborative practices. This system grants each person greater levels of autonomy in a capitalist system.

Anarchist beliefs have a long history in political philosophy, and many classical Greek philosophers advocated for distancing oneself from the state; this ideology is called cynicism. Cynic philosophers, like Diogenes, were skeptical of the efficacy and value of official authority. William Godwin, an 18th century English writer, is an example of a more modern anarchist. Godwin questioned the validity of formalized authority based on the notion that once formalized, governing bodies stop serving the needs of the people and instead serve to proliferate their power.

Anarchism offers valuable conceptualizations of the importance of individual responsibility within more extensive socio-cultural relationships. However, there are a few main criticisms:

  • Inability to protect marginalized or vulnerable groups by eliminating official means of social protection
  • Inconsistencies within the ideology render it challenging to implement on a large scale, especially as it relates to how far the rejection of authority extends
  • Even when anarchist ideologies are implemented, it is likely that authority will be established again; and even if only within a group of anarchists, minimal authority is still a form of formalized authority


The pinnacle of anarchist beliefs is a rejection of the state or formal governing bodies.

anti-state authority anarchism image

Capitalism

Capitalism is an economic system that prioritizes the privatization of ownership of the means of production so that they may be purchased and relates to supply and demand, which dictates that the supply, or available amount, of goods correlates to its demand. For instance, higher demand for a product in low supply will yield a higher purchasing price, whereas goods with high supply will lower demand because they are readily available. The privatization of the means of production can lead to the privatization of entire industries. Neoliberalism is a political philosophy closely related to capitalism as it is the belief in a free market economy and, therefore, less government interaction with industries and markets. This philosophy places greater value on the self-regulation of capitalism.

In practice, capitalism must interact with other government structures. In a liberal market economy, government interacts minimally with capitalist markets, as is the case in the United States because the government intervenes in market regulation only when deemed necessary. However, in a coordinated market economy, the government works alongside privatized industries to provide safety nets and regulations through other organizations, like workers' unions.

Adam Smith, an 18th century English economist, introduced capitalism. He suggested that the "invisible hand," or market demands, would guide the development of the economy so efficiently that no intervention would be necessary. Today, most nations worldwide have at least some elements of capitalist economies, including countries with communist governments like China.

The main criticism of capitalism is that the free market can only self-regulate for so long before it leads to crony capitalism. Crony capitalism is the monopolization of industry to the point that significantly few private businesses exercise all the monetary authority within that industry. When only a few people own all the means of production and goods produced, they can leverage their ownership so that smaller businesses can no longer compete with the prices of their goods in a process called "cornering the market." Crony capitalism can lead to government practices serving the economic interests of large businesses before the interests of their citizens.

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Prompts About Comparing Anarchism, Capitalism, Fascism, and Communism:

Graphic Organizer Prompt 1:

Make a chart, poster, or some other type of graphic organizer that explains anarchism. Your graphic organizer should explain the core beliefs of anarchists, and illustrate the spectrum of anarchism.

Example: Militant anarchism is at the extreme end of the spectrum.

Graphic Organizer Prompt 2:

Create a chart, poster, or some other type of graphic organizer that illustrates the features of fascism.

Example: Fascist governments are extremely authoritarian.

Essay Prompt 1:

In approximately two to three paragraphs, write an essay that describes capitalism and how it functions. Your essay should also briefly touch on the history of capitalism.

Example: Capitalism helped countries like the United States become powerful on a global scale.

Essay Prompt 2:

Write an essay of approximately three to four paragraphs that explains communism, its principles, and how it is practiced.

Example: Communists aim to diminish the wealth gap between the rich and the poor.

Presentation Prompt:

Choose a country that has or has had a fascist, communist, or capitalist government/system. Research this country and how fascism, communism, or capitalism has functioned in this country. Create a PowerPoint presentation based on your research.

Example: China is technically a communist country, but its economy contains elements of capitalism.

Is communism the opposite of capitalism?

Yes, communism is the opposite of capitalism because communism does not allow for private ownership of goods or land and the state controls industry. Under capitalism, the opposite is true: goods and land are privately owned and operated with little to no state regulation. Communism aligns with left-leaning socioeconomic principles and capitalism aligns with right-leaning socioeconomic principles.

Is fascism capitalist or socialist?

Fascism is directly opposed to socialism, especially the socialist ideals of equality and elimination of social hierarchy because fascism is based on traditional ideals that uphold such hierarchies. Fascism is not expressly capitalist, however, because fascism involves isolationist ideals that render capitalist market exchanges difficult. Fascism is more capitalist than socialist because fascism aligns with capitalism's ideals of hierarchy and socioeconomic conservatism.

What is the meaning of fascism?

Fascism is an authoritarian system that promotes one uniform state with conservative ideals. The word fascism comes from the Italian word fascio that means "bundle," and refers to the formation of one homogenous ruling group or party.

What is socialism vs. communism vs. capitalism?

Socialism is a system where the public collectively owns all the means of production but some private ownership of land and wealth is still allowed, though major wealth disparity is avoided.

Communism is a system where the state controls the even distribution of all wealth and property, thus establishing a society without hierarchy where everyone is individual. Both are left-leaning.

Capitalism is right-leaning, and it involves private ownership of the means of production, wealth, and property. Wealth disparity is not regulated under capitalism.

What is the opposite of a communist government?

Capitalism and anarchism are opposites of communism. Capitalism is the opposite because it promotes private ownership of labor, goods, wealth, and property (communism operates on the public ownership of these things as distributed by the state). Anarchism is the opposite of communism because it is an entire rejection of authoritative rule, and communism is a form of an authoritarian state.

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