Capitalism and Socialism: Crash Course World History #33

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In which John Green teaches you about capitalism and socialism in a way that is sure to please commenters from both sides of the debate. Learn how capitalism arose from the industrial revolution, and then gave rise to socialism. Learn about how we got from the British East India Company to iPhones and consumer culture in just a couple of hundred years. Stops along the way include the rise of industrial capitalism, mass production, disgruntled workers, Karl Marx, and the Socialist Beard. The socialist reactions to the ills of capitalism are covered as well, and John discusses some of the ideas of Karl Marx, and how they’ve been implemented or ignored in various socialist states. Plus, there are robots!


The Relentless Revolution by Joyce Appelby:

The Marx-Engels Reader:

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46 Responses

  1. seneris says:

    "Capitalism is all about efficiency"
    laughs in 2020

  2. James Rollins says:

    My god you're annoying

  3. Rigoberto Giusti says:

    You never mentioned slavery which was a big part of American capitalism.

  4. Richard Gilbert says:

    Sounds to me like capitalism brought about more ingenuity, technological advancements, and prosperity and communism brought revolution and starvation.

  5. yes says:


  6. Herr Bear says:

    Sounds like communist propaganda to me but ok

  7. Derek Lush says:

    "sorry buddy, but you gave it a good run… You didn't know about Stalin!"

  8. Sandeep Dange says:

    Wasted 12 precious minutes of my life

  9. Glenn Edward says:

    Child Labour? So, their parents had enough money not to send them to work? Or they'd starve if they didn't work

  10. Glenn Edward says:

    Child Labour? So, that didn't exist before capitalism?

  11. Korrade says:

    Idk man I’ve seen capitalist who wouldn’t have a conversation and just say “die commie” I mean it’s bad on both sides but isn’t a one sided thing

  12. A N says:

    Hate your humour man – just get to the facts

  13. Vince Gilday says:

    Stalin was awesome change my mind

  14. Dinesh says:

    Did anyone see a tardis on 3:40.

  15. verticalfish says:

    9:45 I'm just gonna assume that that "beard lovers" comment is a Wheezy Waiter reference. Please let it be a Wheezy Waiter reference.

  16. Yuyan Malez says:

    endlessly love your content!

  17. pranjal shukla says:

    Capitalism enables few to be richer than the masses and control them.
    Communism enables the government to replace the few and control all.
    Evidently, communist nations have higher wealth centralisation in few hands than capitalist nations.

  18. Alexis Martinez says:

    You lost me at Capitalism is all about efficiency…

  19. Ryan Jameson says:

    Oooohhhhh God

    I'm going into the comments section

    Wish me luck

  20. Noah Amador says:

    Capitalism won’t work for any of you.

  21. Noah Amador says:

    Fun Fact: Karl Marx wrote letters to Abraham Lincoln in support of him.

  22. Michelle Lewis says:

    How can you have a description of capitalism without the 'circuit of capital' or the ethics of profit where social 'goods' are secondary?

  23. dormitivevirtue says:

    capitalism is a pyramid scheme

  24. cassam achillah says:

    You never actually defined Socialism. Literally, there are no exemplary characters in socialism. You equivocate poverty, stupidity and incentivize lazyness

  25. Giant Cat says:

    Industrial Capitalism works in the US.
    Sweatshop worker making products for the US: Great. Anyway, I better go buy bread and water with my $1 wage from today's 12 hour shift. I hope you enjoy those Nikes.

  26. MK Hosono says:

    Foreigners are taking our jobs!
    No that's capitalism at work you fool.

  27. Pandaboi says:

    My greatest issue with the modern world is that people assume that capitalism and democracy are systems that can, do and should regulate themselves.

  28. Michael Passmore says:

    This channel should be banned for its clear left wing garbage bias. Shame on you for distorting facts and history to suit your agenda. Disgraceful. These videos are full of lies – get your history elsewhere kids!!!

  29. LegendOfShaun Esquire says:

    Oh boy. Enlightened Centrism incoming.

  30. gurifisuuu says:

    as of recent events you need to start preparing a video for the fall of capitalism…

  31. TheWhiteMamba3000 says:

    I believe capitalism, socialism, and communism must all be present for a healthy country. Capitalism keeps Socialism in check, Socialism keeps Communism in check, and Communism keeps Capitalism in check.

  32. El Pulgón Carbonero says:

    So, true capitalism/liberalism and true communism/socialism haven't been truly tried in big scale, but rather a weird mix of them both with a state in the middle?

  33. Shalon Anwar says:

    Oof this comment section is a garbage fire.

  34. Bella De la Cruz says:

    John green is our generations social studies Bill Nye

  35. Shi You says:

    In communist China, Wechat.
    In Capitalist America, iChat.

  36. Fumif Oficial says:

    I was Lmao with Stalin face carterpillar

  37. Iris Bos says:

    Social Democracy for the win.

  38. meow says:

    pretty good video but i wish youd update it

  39. vccv vccv says:

    What's socialism? Gangster million times richer than mass! Farmers starve to death or worth two ordinary cars a life. Charges in medical, education, birth. 70 years for real estate, 20 years cemetery! Only $12 a month for farmers pension. Officials mating girls in kindergarten.

  40. vccv vccv says:

    Socialism create brutal slave society, bandits hold all power, armament and wealth! got money and kills at will. No life of people, Famine and hunger often, the gangster consolidate the power by killing, any opposition will be destroied! Socialism crimes against humanity.

  41. Todd Doering says:

    Did your high school teacher write that capitalism resulted in improved production of food, as opposed to the improved farming technologies and techniques at that same time; or was that all you?

  42. Caio Batalha says:

    I really like Crash Course videos, but this one made mistakes in important points. And since it's a controversial subject, it's probably good to clarify them.

    It is a popular misconception that socialism/communism is about State ownership of enterprises or regulation of economic activity, and is antagonistic with markets (communism is, but socialism is not). This has absolutely nothing to do with socialism or communism in any way. It is a relatively understandable mistake given some historical considerations, but it is still not true. Stalinists and American propaganda are in most part to blame. Socialism and communism are about the following:

    – Socialism: essentially a mode of production, with worker control of the means of production (and State control is not worker control). For the most part, socialists and communists were radically anti-State. It can be pro or against markets. Its motto is "from each according to his ability, to each according to his contribution";
    – Communism: essentially a movement, with larger principles for society than just organizing production, but still with worker control of the means of production (again, not State control), and that puts an emphasis on building a Stateless, moneyless and classeless society (with class referring to the divisions in the organization of production, such as burgeois, proletariat, bureaucrat, etc). It is inherently anti-market (but, again, not in a statist way). Its motto is "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need".

    What is worker control? In a capitalist mode of production, there is a distinction between the owner and the workers. One can own a company without ever participating in the production of whatever that company does. The owner might happen to do some work, but his ownership is not conditioned on actually working. Also, his remmuneration is not directly linked to the quality of his work. His remmuneration is solely dependent on that fact that he owns the business. For socialists or communists, this is unnaceptable, and leads to many distortions in society. A man shouldn't have a right to remmuneration simply because he owns something. If that happens, it means that he is capable of getting for himself the fruits of the contributions made by other people. Even if the owner does high quality work, it is highly unlikely that he meritocratically deserves a remmuneration so many times higher than his more highly qualified employees, even accounting for the risks. The socialist mode of production stresses that those who work in a place should own it. This is nothing alien to this world. Worker cooperatives, which are a type of company very widespread around the world, are basically socialist companies. The owners are the very workers that work there. And, therefore, they also have votes on decisions made by the company. Socialism is essentially bringing direct democracy to the workplace. Socialism is not antagonistic to markets. Some socialists are pro markets, and some are against it. Being pro or against markets is something you are appart from being a socialist. And even for those who are against markets, and pro planning, what they defend is not State planning. Socialist planification is about decentralized production units coordinating production in order to supply the needs of society, without the perceived waste that markets bring by being chaotic. Again, some socialists believe this planning is a good idea, while other believe that markets are our best option.

    What was the USSR then? Socialist and communists were always faced with the problem of how to change society. Basically, how to get from capitalism to socialism. This is a problem that obviously capitalists don't have to deal with, since we already live in a society where the capitalist mode of production is dominant. Different socialist and communist schools of thought have been created mainly due to different views in how to make this transition. Mutualists (and many market socialists), for exemple, believe in fostering the cooperative movement, and building a new society inside the shell of the old one; anarchists believe that destroying the State in a revolution would be suffient to bring about socialism or communism, because these are more natural states of society for them, and the State artifially drives us away from these states; old social-democrats (not the ones we have today) believed in starting a dialogue with the burgeoisie and other classes, to convince everyone that being socialist is better, avoiding the need for conflict; marxists believed in teaching the workers to understand how society works, so that they may take the intiatitive of seizing the means of production and start transforming society; among many others. Leninists (or marxist-leninists), the ones who created the USSR, had their own ideas. They believed that whenever revolutionary socialists or communists destroyed the State, neighbouring States came crashing down and destroyed the revolution. This was actually true, and happened in many instances. So leninists came up with an idea, they wouldn't destroy the State immediately, they would take it, and use it to defend the revolution against other enemy States, as well as remnants of the burgeoisie inside the revolutionary territory that wanted the old system back. In their minds, they would do this untill the socialist mode of production was dominant, and until the revolution had spread to all States in the world. If all neighbouring States had fallen to socialist revolutions, then there were no States at all to invade them and suppress their revolution. In Lenin's mind, this wouldn't take long, because it was a general feeling at the time that revolutions would erupt in many places. So he only had to wait a bit. Lenin believed that as soon as they took the State, the State would slowly start to decrease in size, as society took back the roles of the State for itself. With time, the State would "wither away". The "withering away of the State" is an actual term for this concept that leninists use. At the same time, the leninists felt that Russia was still a feudal society. And since socialism and communism were supposed to be post capitalist societies, they felt that Russian peasants might have a hard time organizing themselves in a socialistic manner, despite leninist also believing that some traditional form of Russian organizations in the countryside were very communistic. So the communist party would help society to organize, while it didn't wither away. This is a very strong contrast with other socialist/communist schools of thought, who emphacized that workers themselves should find way of organizing, and not having someone telling them what to do. So, in short, the USSR was supposed to be a transition from capitalism to socialism (communism would be something that future generations would build). It was not socialism, but something like a third state of society, designed to temporarily defend the socialists from the capitalists. Lenin actually called the USSR State capitalism, because it still had a difference between who owns (the State) and who works. But he though it was only transitory, and for the better, in the long run. Nonetheless, he understood perfectly well that they were not socialists. As he put it, "the USSR is socialist not because we are actually socialists right now, but because we have the determination to be socialists". However, the transition didn't work, and Stalin actually decided the transition should be the permanent State. In retrospect, many criticisms made by other socialists towards the leninists ended up being vindicated. Most other socialists said that using the State would make the revolution degenerate into a bureacracy, as it did. In any case, the failure of the USSR is not a failure of socialism, market or non-market, but a failure of the strategy of using the State to transform society. Even though the leninist's prediction that other countries would try to destroy the revolution was correct (Germany, UK, USA and Japan invaded Russia right after the revolution; it took about three years for the bolcheviques to drive them away – without the State, they probably wouldn't have made it), in the end the State wasn't capable of creating a succesful transition, and it ended up degenerating into a bureacracy. While Lenin was alive he already showed disappointment in how the prediction that the State would immediatly start to decrease in size after the revolution didn't work out. Whether leninsm is capable of actually changing society towards socialism sowhere, is hard to say for sure. But at least for now, all leninist attempts have failed. The very least we can say is that it is an improbable strategy. But, in any case, it's important to know that a failure in leninism is not a failure in socialism. It's a failure in a transition strategy. While leninism has failed, the cooperative movement has grown immensily in the world. Owen's, Proudhon's and Mill's vision of how to reach socialism has been proving more effective over time. But time will tell.

  43. Hermit The Frog says:

    Child labor laws shouldn't be enforced by government, it should be voluntary. Change my mind.

  44. GeneralArmorus says:

    Caps be like we woz a bit socialist when we were young & stupid. But now we adults and not assholes.

  45. footprint says:

    How can anyone understand a word he says

  46. Lost Boy says:

    He is smart but very annoying.

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