Capitalism and its Critics

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Thursday 08 October 2020
Friday 18 December 2020
16 May 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA VV20 Philosophy with Business Management,
BA VV21 Philosophy with Business Management (Including Foundation Year),
BA VV22 Philosophy with Business Management (Including Placement Year),
BA VV23 Philosophy with Business Management (Including Year Abroad)

Module description

Since the financial crisis of 2008, the social consequences, moral status, and even long-term viability of capitalism have come under renewed scrutiny. Does it foster economic growth and protect individual freedom, as its proponents claim? Or is it a destructive system out of control, as its detractors argue? Should the market be given even freer rein? Or should capitalism be reformed and restricted? Or should it be abolished and replaced altogether? And, if so, what would replace it?

In this module, we will explore the arguments of both defenders and critics of capitalism. We will study a range of texts, both historical (such as Adam Smith, G.W.F. Hegel, Karl Marx, Friedrich von Hayek, Milton Friedman, and Karl Polanyi) and contemporary (such as Nancy Fraser, Liza Herzog, Debra Satz, Elizabeth Anderson, and Wolfgang Streeck).

Module aims

The aims of the module are:

1. to develop a familiarity with some of the major figures and themes discussed in the module;
2. to undertake a close assessment of selected classics on capitalism or its critique;
3. to gain a precise understanding of at least one major theme or problem covered in the module;
5. to develop the ability to critically analyse writings in social and political philosophy, and to produce argumentatively precise and robust critical analysis.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module students should be able to:

• explain the main theories, models and concepts applied in the analysis and critique of capitalism;
• summarise normative debates about capitalism, and its dominant contemporary form, neo-liberalism;
• explain and critically assess the arguments made by advocates and critics of capitalism.

By the end of the module, students should also have acquired a set of transferable skills, and in particular be able to:

• define the task in which they are engaged and exclude what is irrelevant;
• seek and organise the most relevant discussions and sources of information;
• process a large volume of diverse and sometimes conflicting arguments;
• compare and evaluate different arguments and assess the limitations of their own position
or procedure;
• write and present verbally a succinct and precise account of positions, arguments,
and their presuppositions and implications;
• be sensitive to the positions of others and communicate their own views in ways that are
accessible to them;
• think 'laterally' and creatively - see interesting connections and possibilities and present
these clearly rather than as vague hunches;
• maintain intellectual flexibility and revise their own position if shown wrong;
• think critically and constructively.

Module information

Incoming Study Abroad students must have already taken an introductory module in Philosophy or Political Theory at their home institution.

Learning and teaching methods

There will be a two-hour combined lecture and seminar each week and a separate one-hour class in which selected themes will be discussed in more depth. All teaching events will be accessible to students on and off campus either face-to-face or remotely through online teaching. Week 8 is Reading Week.


  • Friedman, Milton. (2002) Capitalism and Freedom, Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
  • Marx, Karl. (2000) Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (1843/44) -- Selections: from “Alienated Labour” to “Private Property and Communism”, Oxford: Oxford University Press., pp.85-104
  • Friedman, Milton; Friedman, Rose D. (1962) Capitalism and freedom, London: University of Chicago Press.
  • Streeck, Wolfgang. (2011) 'The Crises of Democratic Capitalism', in New Left Review. vol. 71, pp.1-25
  • Fraser, Nancy. (2013) 'Feminism, Capitalism and the Cunning of History', in Fortunes of feminism: from state-managed capitalism to neoliberal crisis, Brooklyn, NY: Verso.
  • Marx, Karl. (no date) 'The Absurdity of Speaking of Wages as an Advance by the Capitalist to the Labourer. Bourgeois Conception of Profit as Reward for Risk', in Theories of Surplus Value.
  • Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Fredrich. (1991) 'System of Need' in "Elements of the Philosophy of Right" [1821], Cambridge: Cambridge University Press., pp.227-239
  • Smith, Adam. (2008) An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations: a selected edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press. vol. Oxford world's classics
  • Cohen, G. A. (2009) Why Not Socialism?, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Essay plan     25% 
Coursework   Essay (2000 words)     50% 
Coursework   Quizzes TOTAL (2 of 3)    25% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Timo Juetten, email:
Professor Timo Juetten



External examiner

No external examiner information available for this module.
Available via Moodle
Of 36 hours, 36 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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