Language Question

Folks, is the expression “wild capitalism” not used in English? I’m told to use “wild West capitalism” instead but that’s not at all what I’m trying to say. I know I’m using a calque from Russian but does it not exist in English?

I’m talking about the form of capitalism that exists in the post-Soviet space. It’s the primitive stage of accumulation. Would you use “wild capitalism” or something else?

19 thoughts on “Language Question”

  1. Yes, I’ve never heard the phrase wild capitalism in English. Don’t know much about post-Soviet Russia but is it like the Robber Barons?


  2. Maybe it’s better to use the Russian and then explain it in a footnote?

    When you say “primitive stage of accumulation” I think of the Gilded Age or maybe right after they industrialized the first cloth mills. In other words, no restraints on business, no to minimal regulation to speak of, enormous winners and losers, no buffers from capitalism. The “wild west” conjures that up as well.

    But of course it isn’t that because people were not reacting to decades of centralized planning going kaput.


  3. No, wild capitalism isn’t really a phrase in the UK, Wild West capitalism would be more recognisable


  4. Yeah, I recognize the term ‘primary accumulation of capital’ from my bygone days of coursework in political economics. No regulation, many small businesses/small-scale manufacture, most people engaging in trade rather than manufacture. I think it might be referred to as merchant capitalism in the West. Although the term Wild West capitalism aptly conveys the reliance on small-scale manufacture and trade. as well as this complete lack of regulation.


  5. It’s the same in Polish, I understood ‘wild capitalism’ the first time I heard it (someone describing Vietnam in the the early 2000s) but it’s not an expression in English.

    If you’re really attached to the expression maybe use it with a short definition (and the Russian original in parentheses) on its first mention…

    What to you is the difference between wild capitalism and wild west capitalism?


    1. I’ve never heard the expression “wild west capitalism” before, to be honest. The reviewer suggests I use it and add a paragraph on how the West is evil. I have no interest in doing that because it’s idiotic. So I struggle.


      1. “The reviewer suggests I use it and add a paragraph on how the West is evil.”

        Is your reviewer an American? He/she apparently isn’t familiar with the common expression “wild West” — which specifically refers to the historical American southwestern frontier days of the 1800’s (as in old Western movies). No American would think of the term as suggesting modern evil Western capitalism.


        1. Ha! That’s exactly what the expression means to me! And that’s why I’m uncomfortable with “wild west capitalism.” The US capitalism originated in the East Coast, where the industry was.

          My faith in my Americanization has been recovered.

          And the reviewer is a Brit.


        2. “No American would think of the term as suggesting modern evil Western capitalism.”

          It’s a metaphor and doesn’t refer to ‘evil western capitalism’ whatever that is, but capitalism in a context of non-existent or ineffective public institutions, especially when a previous social order collapses (like after the fall of communism). It’s a context in which vast fortunes are made by the most ruthless who ignore state structures (and are willing to spill blood, lots of blood) while the bulk of the population is impoverished and/or intimidated into compliance.
          IINM it was worst in Russia and Ukraine (Belarus retreated back to a semi-Soviet system relatively early) and in non-Soviet space in Bulgaria and Romania (is there an orthodox factor at work?).
          Contrary to free market theorists, it seems that the absence of effective state mechanisms for regulation do not produce rational economic actors and multi-directional benefits….


  6. Have you heard of the new book by Anders Åslund “Russia’s Crony Capitalism: The Path from Market Economy to Kleptocracy”?

    I found the interview with him on a Russian site and thus discovered the book. Here is the enlightening interview (in Russian):

    I started searching and he has also written “Ukraine: What Went Wrong and How to Fix It.”

    Is he good? I read wiki about him and he was an advisor in several FSU countries among other things.

    Want to explore his columns here:


    1. Reminded me of this person who discovered I support Brexit and immediately assumed I was an anti-vaxxer. Took me forever to figure out why she was going on and on about the importance of vaccines.

      The worldview she offers is as primitive as the one she denounced. There are superior human beings who accepted that the globalization is great and there are the inferior idiots who are questioning it.


  7. In Portuguese there is the term savage capitalism (capitalismo selvagem) and this may be what you mean by wild capitalism. It’s part primitive or primary accumulation, part crony, part kleptocratic, and largely unregulated. I have heard this term used in English and Spanish but unless I am mistaken we’ve gotten it from the Brazilians. I like the new term wild west capitalism!


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