DEFINITION of 'Communism'

A political and economic ideology based on communal ownership and the absence of class. Communism, which can be thought of as capitalism's opposite, says that in a capitalist society, the working class (the proletariat) is exploited by the ruling class (the bourgeoisie).

While based on a Utopian ideal of equality and abundance, as expressed by the popular slogan, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need," communism in practice has only existed under authoritarian government and has been the source of millions of human rights violations and deaths.


One of the fundamental problems with communism is the knowledge problem, which describes how, without a price system, central planners cannot accurately determine what goods and services should be produced or in what quantities. Useless surpluses and devastating shortages are the result. Communism is often considered to be a twentieth century political experiment that officially failed in the late 1980s and early 1990s with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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