Difference Between Capitalism And Imperialism (With Table)

Historical events have been broadly classified based on the type of government prevalent as it is the sole criteria for deciding variations in socio-economic conditions. It is essential to draw a thin line of distinction between all the modes so that the necessary hierarchy can be established easily. Capitalism and imperialism are two widely misunderstood terms and other similar terms include colonialism, socialism, etc. +

Capitalism vs Imperialism

The main difference between capitalism and imperialism is that the former relies on enhancing production while the latter focuses on the accumulation of power by rational as well as irrational means. They cannot be distinguished on the basis of locations because governments were gradually replaced and either of them was bound to overpower. It is widely considered that capitalism and imperialism cannot co-exist in a particular ministry.

The term capitalism has been derived from Latin word “caput” which means “head”. It indirectly refers to the top levels of administration who are powerful as well as influential. Capitalism took birth in the middle of the sixteenth century. The main theme of capitalist forms of government is authoritarianism. Power is said to be contained only in the wealthy group, keeping aside the values attached to the same.

The term imperialism has been derived from the Roman word “empire” which means “ruled territory”. This means that an imperialist regime is akin to the old empires of Roman rulers who liked to keep all powers in their hands, irrespective of the common welfare of the people being ruled. Imperialism has been around since late nineteenth century. It can be regarded as an unsuccessful socio-economic system.

Comparison Table Between Capitalism and Imperialism

Parameters of ComparisonCapitalismImperialism
DefinitionIt is defined as the mode of governance owned by private or corporate heads to enhance means of production in all possible ways It is defined as the mode of governance through apt use of colonization which helps in establishing greater power as well as influence over fellow countries
Historical SignificanceAn effective problem-solving technique for the poor peopleIt led to the recognizance of far greater issues in the societal structure
Century of EmergenceThe sixteenth-century marked the onset of capitalist viewsImperialism began around the nineteenth century
LocationAmerican countries favored capitalism African, Asian, and other Pacific regions favored imperialism
Scope of employmentPeople were rigorously employed during the prevalence of capitalismVery meek opportunities of employment provided

What is Capitalism?

Capitalism can be defined as transfer of power from state to private owners who are held in high esteem by the common populace. This implies that everything related to the ruling group is oriented towards extracting maximum profits by hook or by crook. Competitions are the lifelines of capitalist governments as they lead to rotation of power.

In most cases, capitalism was considered to be the reason behind welfare as the poor people got to work in industries, irrespective of their incapabilities. Overall growth was also favoured as all the resources were to be distributed fairly among all classes of people. They did not want to lose to more influential people.

There were various advantages of this social setup. People were no longer required to depend on the authorities for the management of their own funds. Principles of individualism and freedom also came to light for the first time in history. All rights and duties are supposed to be held in high spirits for ensuring the efficient removal of grievances in the economic scenario. Oppression of lower castes was mildly observed in early times.

What is Imperialism?

Imperialism can be defined as a form of government in which empires are controlled by means of advocacy. Means of establishing power including military force and colonization, among other stringent measures. An imperialist regime can easily exercise due power over other capitalist or imperialist regimes. Corruption is rampant during such a regime as the quest for majority is the most important aspect.

The top essentials of imperialism include high efficiency in adding up more dynasties, making necessary changes in society, and keeping all business mismanagement at bay as long as possible. Overall, they focused on development at the cost of common good. Greater control indirectly means greater power and thus, the imperialist state is highly revered by the lower ones. The emperor was known to be the people’s God.

The downfalls of an imperialist society include an environment brimming with violence as wars were fought for capturing territories, and a lack of overall liberty due to the manipulative nature of the imperialist head. Everyone was supposed to obey the authority or else leave the concerned territory forever. They did not worry about the lives of the people at all.

Main Differences Between Capitalism And Imperialism

  1. Capitalism can be defined as authoritarianism driven by profits while imperialism is the quest for authority at the cost of common welfare.
  2. In ancient times, capitalism was famous due to high job production rates while imperialism helped discover the loopholes.
  3. As a social phenomenon, capitalism emerged around 16th century AD while imperialism was first heard of in the 19th century AD.
  4. Capitalism was widely spread in the mainland areas of America while imperialist regimes were popular in Pacific region.
  5. People got ample employment during capitalist regimes while the scope of employment withered away as imperialism took over.


The principles of capitalism and imperialism are mildly similar based on the aspect of the need for a strong leadership. While the former wants to attain wealth by making use of this leadership, the latter wishes to remain in power for as long as possible. The results are always cumulative since a change in government does not necessarily lead to a change is regime or a change in people’s thought process altogether.

Most of the historians and authorities in political science regard these types of governments as temporary and short-lived because the roles and responsibilities of a ruler were not mt with thoroughly. They succeeded in their respective aims but failed to provide fair governance. A combination of capitalist and imperialist regimes is scarcely found.


  1. https://genomebiology.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/gb-2014-15-3-r46
  2. https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlehtml/2013/nr/c3nr04562e
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