Why Albert Einstein hated capitalism

Portrait of physicist Albert Einstein sitting in an armchair and smoking a pipe, circa 1932.
© Three Lions/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The scientist saw a system that oppressed both society and nature.

No matter how many Albert Einstein T-shirts or mugs are churned out, the famous physicist was no fan of capitalism. In Einstein's view of the world, the system that turns humans against each other is the same system that turns humans against nature.

People used to live in small groups, where a community would take care of its members.

"The time—which, looking back, seems so idyllic—is gone forever when individuals or relatively small groups could be completely self-sufficient," Einstein wrote.

We're now part of a global economy, one where people constantly compete for food, housing and jobs.

"The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence," Einstein said. "The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil."

Humans naturally both compete and cooperate with each other. But capitalism encourages competition and discourages cooperation, breaking social bonds.

"All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life," Einstein continued.

Instead of living in supportive communities, capitalism encourage business leaders to take power and exploit their workers for profit.

"Production is carried on for profit, not for use," Einstein wrote. "An 'army of unemployed' almost always exists ... Technological progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than in an easing of the burden of work for all."

Schools encourage this unnaturally competitive attitude.

"This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil," Einstein writes. "An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career."

This problem isn't limited to human society. Humans imagine, falsely, that they're disconnected from nature.

“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us 'Universe'," Einstein wrote. "He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest."

This idea turns life into a lonely struggle.

"This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us," Einstein continued. "Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty."

Why Albert Einstein hated capitalism
The scientist saw a system that oppressed both society and nature.

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