Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production, with the goal of making a profit. Central elements of capitalism include capital accumulation, competitive markets, and a price system. There are, however, multiple variants of capitalism, including laissez-faire, welfare capitalism, and state capitalism. Capitalism is considered to have been applied in a variety of historical cases, varying in time, geography, politics, and culture. There is general agreement that capitalism became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism.
Economists, political economists, and historians have taken different perspectives in their analysis of capitalism. Laissez-faire economists emphasize the degree to which government does not have control over markets and the importance of property rights. Others emphasize the need for government regulation, to prevent monopolies and to soften the effects of the boom and bust cycle. Most political economists emphasize private property as well, in addition to power relations, wage labor, class, and the uniqueness of capitalism as a historical formation. The extent to which different markets are free, as well as the rules defining private property, is a matter of politics and policy. Many states have what are termed mixed economies, referring to the varying degree of planned and market-driven elements in an economic system.