Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Ashoka chapter.

Edited by: Shloka Sankar

Chapter 9: Features of Capitalism: A Case study of your Valentine

The aim of this chapter is for you to understand the core principles of a capitalistic market. Theories on what economic institutions behave like are easy to understand in theory but become difficult during practical application. The case study used in this chapter will help you understand the notions and characteristics of a capitalist system via the examination of the celebration of Valentine’s day. We highly recommend you solve the end-of-chapter questions for a clear understanding of the material discussed as we will carry forward these concepts in future chapters as well.

9.1 Introduction to Capitalism

Capitalism is an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market

The main features of capitalism are as follows:

  1. Division of society into a two-class system
  2. Private ownership
  3. A profit motive
  4. Minimal government intervention
  5. Competition

Keeping these features in mind, we will see how the “celebration of love” all over the world in the form of the oft accessorized Valentine’s Day, is a classic example of how a capitalistic society works.

9.2 Case Study: Your Valentine

Valentine’s Day, also called Saint Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, is celebrated annually on February 14. It originated as a Christian feast day honoring one or two early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine and, through later folk traditions, has become a significant cultural, religious, and commercial celebration of romance and love in many regions of the world.

This day exhibits all of the characteristic features of a capitalistic market economy, despite being a one-day event. We will examine them one by one.

  1. Two-class society: The lovers and the others

This day categorizes society into two strict categories according to their earned income (which is calculated by their romantic appeal and investment in love). The two classes (rich and the not-rich) are granted different societal status, and have certain barriers to entry. The only way the not-rich (poor single people) can climb the social ladder is by increasing their earnings and respective investments (in love).

  1. Private ownership

For the purpose of this model and case study we will treat the government as the society (i.e. the sum total of lovers and others in the economy). This is a simplifying assumption we make in order for students to better understand the concepts. A capitalistic market only works when the ownership of businesses and markets are uncontrolled by the government, in this case both the lovers and the others. In such a market, the forces of demand and supply, as well as market ethics is dictated by whatever private entity prevails, a.k.a the rich, a.k.a the lovers. This can easily be demonstrated on Valentine’s day; the chocolate, flowers and postcard supplies are overtaken by the lovers and does not allow state entry by any means. Acquiring these commodities become difficult for the lower income group (the others) as they do not “earn” well enough to experience the same luxuries as the lovers. They are deterred by the two main forces in the market: peer pressure and existential embarrassment of being seen buying chocolates or flowers for yourself on Valentine’s.

  1. Competition

In order to completely understand Capitalism we need to have a closer look at the intersectional competitions amongst the private entity owners in this society. Often, the market forces of demand (attention from their significant other) and supply (the love and attention that their S.O. gives them) is determined and set at equilibrium via rigorous competition amongst the lovers. Couples try to outmatch each other by buying and selling commodities using strategies that are driven by the market forces of peer pressure and societal expectation. This causes the price of commodities such as chocolates, flowers, etc to erratically fluctuate, causing problems for the others, who are not even involved in this competition. Equilibrium is only set at night via consensual intercourse of the market forces.

Students are encouraged to fit the remaining characteristics: profit motive and minimal government intervention to this model by themselves as a review exercise to solidify their understanding of the concept. 

Review Questions

  1. What is Capitalism? How does this economic theory fit into the modern day concept of celebrating love?
  2. Valentine’s Day was a European concept that was later exported to different parts of the world due to the onset of colonialism. How might this be at line with the adoption of capitalism as the socioeconomic structure by various developing countries that were previously under colonial rule?
  3. Explain the concept of market equilibrium post competition with the help of diagrams.
  4. Describe the difference in celebration of heterosexual and queer love on Valentine’s day with the underlying concept of the differences in practices of Private Ltd and non-governmental organizations.
Prisha is constantly searching for media and literature obsessions in a bottomless void. If she had to write a book on something some day, she would either choose Taylor Swift's album evermore or South Asian queer media. There is no in-between.