Problem with OED's First Use of "Capitalism"

Dan Goncharoff thegonch at GMAIL.COM
Sat Mar 24 21:48:45 UTC 2012

None of them have any relevance for early usage? I don't understand
what you mean. Adam Smith would have understood all the concepts you

Sent from my iPhone

On Mar 24, 2012, at 2:20 PM, Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM> wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Problem with OED's First Use of "Capitalism"
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> What I see here is "capitalist" as "banker" or "money lender", not
> merely "investor", as is given in the OED definition. "Capitalists"
> appear to be people who lend out "capital" and live off the returned
> interest. "Investment" is particularized use of such capital to make
> loans to businesses, usually in exchange for partial ownership of the
> enterprise--too narrow for use here. The meaning of "capitalism" as
> listed in the OED seems to be oddly unrelated to this particular use.
>> The possession of capital or wealth; an economic system in which
>> private capital or wealth is used in the production or distribution of
>> goods and prices are determined mainly in a free market; the dominance
>> of private owners of capital and of production for profit.
> Note that the "economic system", "use in production", "free market" and
> "dominance of private owners" are all Marxian or anti-Marxian ideas.
> None of them have any relevance for early usage.
>     VS-)
> On 3/24/2012 8:31 AM, James A. Landau <JJJRLandau at> wrote:
>> from Google Books:
>> Niles Weekly Register ---Saturday, July 22, 1815
>> page 365, column 1, starting 15 lines from bottom
>> "Antwerp, May 10---This city is in the utmost distress.---Failures are universal.  The most solid houses are trembling, and names hitherto respectable throughtout Europe,are falling entirely---the great capitalists are ruined by the depreciation of the bank paper of Vienna, Russia, Sweden,&c.  Thus our city,lately so flourishing,offers now only the spectacle of misery and wretchedness"
>> An Introduction to the Sudy of Political Economy, or Elementary View of the Manner In Which the Wealth of Nations Is Produced, Increased, Distributed, and Consumed.  By D. Boileau.  London: Printed for T. Cadell and W. Davies, in the Strand, 1811.
>> 21 citations in the text, e.g. page 370 "Idle capitalists could not be met with in a country that had reached the highest possible pitch of prosperity, for if a capitalist lives on the mere interest of his money, there must be some individuals indebted to him<snip>"
>>      - James A. Landau
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