Studying Capitalism (Spring 2019, Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts, The New School)

The course provides an introduction to the social scientific study of capitalism as the social and economic system of our time. Capitalism transforms human life and is transformed by human life. For anyone who lives in the early twenty first century and hopes to make sense of the world we live in, a basic understanding of the foundations, rhythms, tendencies and pathologies of this system is indispensable. Besides providing this basic understanding, the course will also provide an opportunity to explore themes of contemporary relevance in greater depth. For example, among other themes, the course may explore cultural aspects of work and labor under capitalism, and contrasting views of the historical causes of the crisis of 2007-08. By the end of the course, students engaging actively with the course material should have the conceptual tools to more closely analyze and scrutinize their own experiences and observations.

A sample of sources for reading material:

  • Carson, Rachel. 2002. Silent Spring. Boston: Mariner Books.
  • Evans, Peter. 1995. Embedded Autonomy: States and Industrial Transformation. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Fulcher, James. 2004. Capitalism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Heilbroner, Robert L. 1999. The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times, and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers. Rev. 7th ed. New York: Simon and Schuster.
  • Heilbroner, Robert L., and William Milberg. 2012. The Making of Economic Society. 13th ed. Boston: Pearson.
  • Hobsbawm, E. J. 1975. The Age of Capital. London: Abacus.
  • Hobsbawm, Eric. 2011. How to Change the World: Tales of Marx and Marxism. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Hunt, E.K., and Mark Lautzenheiser. 2011. History of Economic Thought: A Critical Perspective. 3rd ed. New York: M. E. Sharpe.
  • Keynes, John Maynard. [1936] 1964. The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money. San Diego: Harcourt, Inc.
  • Sennett, Richard. 2008. The Craftsman. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Sennett, Richard. 2012. Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Skidelsky, Robert. 2010. Keynes: The Return of the Master. New York: Public Affairs.


The Life and Work of John M. Keynes (Fall 2019, Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts, The New School)

The years following the first great recession of the twenty-first century have brought John Maynard Keynes’s ideas back to the forefront of academic and public life. There is also renewed interest in questions about the viability and the future of capitalism. In this historical context, the course introduces Keynes as an important historical character whose life provides insight into the unfolding of the first half of the twentieth century by virtue of his proximity to important historical events. Second, the course provides a survey of Keynes’s writings, with particular attention to the relationship between his life and the formation of his ideas. Third, the course will engage with the big, far reaching questions Keynes was asking about the nature of capitalism and about the human condition. In doing so, the course takes students into Keynes’s life and ideas beyond his role of an economist. For students of economics and capitalism, Keynes and his ideas are unavoidable, and this course provides that necessary engagement.