Elliot Hundley, Clearing V

Capitalism in Western Thought

Instructor: Raphaële Chappe
BISR Central
68 Jay Street, #425
Brooklyn, NY 11201

While capital, markets, and commercial trade have existed for much of human history, the idea of capitalism as an economic model is of relatively recent vintage. It was only during Industrial Revolution that a notion of capitalism as a coherent social formation emerged: production for exchange on a market, private ownership of the means of production, the global distribution of goods, the profit motive, wage labor, and competition—to name just a few. With the foundations of classical free market economic theory laid by Smith, Ricardo, and later Marx (who analyzed the capitalist mode of production more systemically in Das Kapital), the study of capitalism as a stand-alone object of sustained enquiry has often been left to economists, political economists or historians. Yet many prominent intellectuals have analyzed not only the economic dimensions, but also the political, moral, cultural and social implications of capitalism. How has capitalism been theorized, imagined, and accounted for in Western thought, and what can a study of its intellectual history teach us about capitalism as it functions today?

This course will delve into this body of literature by considering the idea of capitalism and the intellectual debates that have accompanied its historical development in the West. Reading from Smith, Rousseau, De Tocqueville, Hegel, Marx, Weber, Keynes, Polanyi, Schumpeter and others, we will survey the views of its leading proponents and critics. Our guiding themes will be the question of poverty and wealth (does the market make people poorer or richer?), distribution (does it increase inequality?), and the cultural, moral, and political effects of capitalism.

Course Schedule

Wednesday, 6:30-9:30pm
October 16 — November 06, 2019
4 weeks


Registration Open

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