Adam Smith’s Lost Legacy: Origins of the Word ‘Capitalism’
… The word ‘Capitalism’ and its related term ‘Capitalist,’ were not “first derived in the English vernacular from a translation of the pejorative term used by Karl Marx” (though he certainly used them pejoratively in his writings).
‘Capitalism’ was a word and a phenomenon neither used by, nor known to, Adam Smith. Capitalism was a wholly late 19th-century experience. The Oxford English Dictionary (Vol II, p 863) locates its first usage in English in 1854 by William Makepeace Thackeray in his novel, The Newcomes.
Karl Marx published, in German, Das Kapital, in 1867 and subsequent translations introduced the word ‘capitalism’ to his readers some years later (Moscow’s ‘Marxist’ editors during the Soviet era ‘interpolated’ the new word of capitalism into his works as if Marx himself had written it).
While Marx may have read Thackeray, it is unlikely that Thackeray read Marx in time to include the word, capitalism, thirteen years earlier in his novel.
Of the word ‘capitalist’, this was first used in English in 1792, by Arthur Young (Travels in France) and it was used by Turgot (in French) in his ‘Reflections on the Formation and the Distribution of Riches’ LXIII-IV, 1770.
If Adam Smith is ‘known’ as the ‘father of capitalism’, it is 20th-century accolade of which he knew nothing, nor, to be accurate, deserved. This is an example of projecting modern notions onto the past. …