is usually described as an economic system in which commercial (i.e., for-profit) economic activity is undertaken by the state, where the means of production are organized and managed as state-owned business enterprises (including the processes of capital accumulation, wage labor, and centralized management), or where there is otherwise a dominance of corporatized government agencies (agencies organized along business management practices) or publicly listed corporations of which the state has controlling shares. Marxist literature defines state capitalism as a social system combining capitalism—the wage system of producing and appropriating surplus value—with ownership or control by a state; by this definition, a state capitalist country is one where the government controls the economy and essentially acts like a single huge corporation, extracting the surplus value from the workforce in order to invest it in further production. This designation applies regardless of the political aims of the state (even if the state is nominally socialist), and many people argue that the modern People's Republic of China constitutes a form of state capitalism and/or that the Soviet Union failed in its goal to establish socialism, but rather established state capitalism.
The term is also used by some in reference to a private capitalist economy controlled by a state, often meaning a privately owned economy that is subject to statist economic planning. This term was often used to describe the controlled economies of the Great Powers in the First World War. State capitalism has also come to refer to an economic system where the means of production are owned privately but the state has considerable control over the allocation of credit and investment, as in the case of France during the period of dirigisme. State capitalism may be used (sometimes interchangeably with state monopoly capitalism
) to describe a system where the state intervenes in the economy to protect and advance the interests of large-scale businesses; Noam Chomsky, a libertarian socialist, applies the term 'state capitalism' to economies such as that of the United States, where large enterprises that are deemed "too big to fail" receive publicly funded government bailouts that mitigate the firms' assumption of risk and undermine market laws, and where private production is largely funded by the state at public expense, but private owners reap the profits. This practice is often claimed to be in contrast with the ideals of both socialism and laissez-faire
There are various theories and critiques of state capitalism, some of which have existed before the 1917 October Revolution. The common themes among them are to identify that the workers do not meaningfully control the means of production and that commodity relations and production for profit still occur within state capitalism. Vladimir Lenin notably described the economy of Russia as state capitalism. Friedrich Engels, in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific
, argued that state ownership does not do away with capitalism by itself, but rather would be the final stage of capitalism, consisting of ownership and management of large-scale production and communication by the bourgeois state. He argued that the tools for ending capitalism are found in state capitalism.