Course code:



A - Advanced

Class size limit:


Meets the following requirements:

  • HY - History
  • HS - Human Studies

Typically offered:

Every other year

Capitalism is the dominant form of economic institutional arrangements and production in the world today, along with a set of culturally inflected values and an interpretive frame for understanding the world around us that is a crucial context for work in Human Ecology. The focus of this course is on the economic imperatives of capitalism, the resulting institutional arrangements, and the socioeconomic outcomes that capitalism produces; we will also dedicate some time to the (other) cultural dimensions of capitalism, largely through the incorporation of guest lecturers in the latter part of the term. The foundational economic analysis will use both Marxist and what can be called “critical macroeconomic” theories to understand the economic processes and results of capitalism. Our focus will be on contemporary capitalism, but we will briefly examine the historical development of capitalism as a means of understanding contemporary patterns. A major impetus for the course is Thomas Piketty’s Capitalism in the 21st Century, and its focus on inequality will be a major focus of the course. Other prominent themes will be pre-capitalist modes of production, the labor theory of value, markets and processes of labor commodification and alienation, the formal and informal institutions of capitalism, money and other forms of debt, international capitalistic relations, crises, and variations of contemporary capitalism. Learning will be accomplished via the reading, study, analysis, and discussion of classic and contemporary theories of capitalism, and applications to current local, national, and international situations and events. Evaluation will be based on four major problem sets (consisting of short essay responses), a final poster presentation, and participation in classroom discussions and other fora.


One course in intermediate economics and one additional intermediate course that closely relates to the study capitalism (e.g. another economics course, critical theory, etc.), and permission of instructor.

Always visit the Registrar's Office for the official course catalog and schedules.