Economism is reduction of all social facts to economic dimensions. The term is often used to criticize economics as an ideology, in which supply and demand are the only important factors in decisions, and outstrip or permit ignoring all other factors. It is believed to be a side effect of neoclassical economics and blind faith in an "invisible hand" or "laissez-faire" means of making decisions, extended far beyond controlled and regulated markets, and used to make political and military decisions. Conventional ethics would play no role in decisions under pure economism, except insofar as supply would be withheld, demand curtailed, by moral choices of individuals. Thus, critics of economism insist on political and other cultural dimensions in society.
The term of "economism" has been widely used in the Marxist discourse since Lenin who criticized Karl Kautsky. Marxist theorists have also often criticized "vulgar Marxism" for its economism about ideological discourse. It was also used by economist Charles Bettelheim, and is sometimes used today to criticize neoliberalism (as the term "single thought").
Old Right social critic Albert Jay Nock used the term more broadly, denoting a moral and social philosophy "which interprets the whole sum of human life in terms of the production, acquisition, and distribution of wealth". He went on to say "I have sometimes thought that here may be the rock on which Western civilization will finally shatter itself. Economism can build a society which is rich, prosperous, powerful, even one which has a reasonably wide diffusion of material well-being. It can not build one which is lovely, one which has savor and depth, and which exercises the irresistible power of attraction that loveliness wields. Perhaps by the time economism has run its course the society it has built may be tired of itself, bored of its own hideousness, and may despairingly consent to annihilation, aware that it is too ugly to be let live any longer." (Memoirs Of A Superfluous Man, pg. 147)
Economism should not be confused with economic determinism, the belief that measurable economic circumstances drive all human psychology and choices. Economism does not seem to permit any escape from the "inevitable" impacts of "free market" dynamics: there is no viable escape route other than submission to a system of valuation, pricing, and open bidding, which are exactly those systems that Karl Marx claimed led to a systematic oppression through his critique of commodity fetishism, and Joseph Schumpeter argued would cause free market systems to lose public support.
- John Ralston Saul, The Collapse of Globalism (2005)