In this post an introductory video and short description from five online courses on capitalism:
- American Capitalism – A History (Cornell University)
- Global History of Capitalism (Princeton University)
- Capitalism: Success, Crisis and Reform (Yale University)
- The Future of Capitalism (Institute for New Economic Thinking)
- Capitalism: Competition, Conflict, Crisis (The New School for Social Research)
- Global Perspectives on Industrialization (Michigan Technological University)
This post was last updated in May 2020, when a new course was added.
This course on the history of American capitalism, taught on the EdX platform by two professors of Cornell University (USA), addresses the following:
“Perhaps no story is as essential to get right as the history of capitalism. Nearly all of our theories about promoting progress come from how we interpret the economic changes of the last 500 years. This past decade’s crises continue to remind us just how much capitalism changes, even as its basic features—wage labor, financial markets, private property, entrepreneurs—endure. While capitalism has a global history, the United States plays a special role in that story. This course will help you to understand how the United States became the world’s leading economic power, revealing essential lessons about what has been and what will be possible in capitalism’s on-going revolution.”
The course does not assume any knowledge in economics. One question listed in the FAQ section is the following: “Is this class about economic thought like Smith, Marx, Ricardo, Hayek, etc.?” This is the answer given:
“This class is primarily about what actually happened rather than theories of what happened. While we will touch on important economic thinkers, this class will focus more on the people and institutions that developed capitalism in the United States. If you want to know how capitalism works and came about, this is the class for you.
“What is capitalism? How has it changed over time? And why do we need a global perspective to fully understand its development and impact? Explore the complex history of capitalism from 1919 until today” with the course ‘Global History of Capitalism’. The more extensive course description:
“Since the global financial crisis of 2008, there has been an explosion of interest in the history of capitalism. Some narratives focus on enormous waste, environmental destruction, overpowered corporations, exploitation of workers, or outrageous inequality. Others are more positive, telling a story about unparalleled prosperity, longer life expectancies, integration of markets, connectivity among peoples, and poverty alleviation.
In this course, we emphasize the complexity of capitalism over such neat narratives. By looking at capitalism through a global lens, we investigate multiple types of explanations and impacts on local, national, regional and global levels. We also examine a range of different topics deeply connected to the evolution of capitalism; including labor relations, migration, commodities, consumption, finance, war, imperialism, development, energy, and the environment.”
Questions addressed include:
- How is capitalism related to globalization?
- What are the important institutions of global capitalism?
- How can we understand consumption and capitalism by following the production, supply and demand chains of commodities like rubber, sugar or petroleum?
- What is the role of the state in the development of capitalism, and is there a relationship between capitalism and empire?
- Is global capitalism environmentally sustainable?
- Why did some countries industrialize, while others didn’t?
- Why do labor markets develop?
- Is there an inherent tension between capitalism and democracy?
The course runs on the edX platform and was created by Princeton University (USA).
While the first course in this post claims to be mainly descriptive, the course on ‘success, crisis and reform’ of capitalism is more explicitly normative. The course, taught by faculty from Yale University (USA) on their own online course platform, explicitly discusses the “good and bad consequences of capitalism“, covering the following ground:
“In this course, we will seek to interpret capitalism using ideas from biological evolution: firms pursuing varied strategies and facing extinction when those strategies fail are analogous to organisms struggling for survival in nature. For this reason, it is less concerned with ultimate judgment of capitalism than with the ways it can be shaped to fit our more specific objectives — for the natural environment, public health, alleviation of poverty, and development of human potential in every child. Each book we read will be explicitly or implicitly an argument about good and bad consequences of capitalism.”
It is a self-paced course, without an opportunity to earn a certificate. A major disadvantage is that it was recorded back in 2009, so that more recent developments will not be discussed
“Many thought the financial crash was a final blow to capitalism. Why does it still reign supreme?”, so economist and journalist Anatole Kaletsky asks. In the course ‘The Future of Capitalism’ he “outlines the shape of things to come“. On this topic he also published the book Capitalism 4.0; The Birth of a New Economy (2011). The more detailed course description:
“The world is still feeling reverberations from the financial crisis of 2008, foreseen by neither politicians nor economists. The history of capitalism has been punctuated by major crises, exposing the fragility of our entire economic system. How has capitalism, despite these ruptures, managed to each time resurface more resilient and radically changed? After the latest crisis, the new economic and political consensus is still in formation: where are we heading? Esteemed economist Anatole Kaletsky guides us through the crises and restorations that demarcate the history of capitalism, before revealing the shape of things to come.”
What you will learn:
- The causes of the three main crises that have afflicted capitalism
- The economic policy and historical period corresponding to the four major periods in the history of capitalism
- How capitalism’s resilience has proven Marx wrong
- The contours of the new economy system taking hold across the globe
- How European policy and austerity measures will only further damage the economy
- How growing global conflict is a product of the financial crisis
Kaletsky is a member of the governing board of the heterodox Institute for New Economic Thinking. The book mentioned on the course page being from 2011, I wondered when the course was produced. Unfortunately I could not find any information on that.
The fifth course could not me more unlike regular MOOCs, which tend to be compiled of short videos and assignments. The course ‘Capitalism: Competition, Conflict, Crisis’ consists of no less than 30 long lectures (about 1,5 hours each). They cover the same ground as the book Capitalism; Competition, Conflict, Crisis (2016), the magnus opus of heterodox economist Anwar Shaik (professor at The New School for Social Research in New York City). On the site Exploring Economics the course is described as follows:
“Anwar Shaikh seeks in his lectures for alternative explanations for empirically observed macro and microeconomic patterns of economic fluctuations, price volatility, and economic development. In contrast to many other economic theorists, he rejects micro-foundations based on the idea of utility maximization and economic equilibria, and develops a theory of ‘real competition’. In his lectures, he elaborates a demarcation line emphasizing his objective to develop a theoretical framework treating imperfections, not as a deviation from an idealistic setting of economic equilibrium but rather considering imperfections as a core ingredient of theory. This is an alternative approach to economic theories and how they can explain real-world economics phenomena.”
So this is a course on capitalism that dives very deeply into economics.
Finally, another course taking a historical perspective. The self-paced course ‘Global Perspectives on Industrialization’ “is a detailed study of the history and dynamics of industrialization, with particular emphasis on its global nature and its economic, social, and environmental effects from ancient times to the present.” The course syllabus promises that you will learn the following:
- identify key ideas and events in the history of industrialization;
- identify connections between the development of capitalism and the development of modern industry;
- use analytical tools to evaluate the factors contributing to industrial change in different societies;
- identify the consequences of industrialization in the 19th and 20th centuries in different societies;
- critique historical interpretations of the causes and effects of industrialization; and
- analyze and interpret primary source documents describing the process of industrialization and life in industrial societies.
In contrast to most other online course, there are hardly any videos, but you are encouraged to study reading materials using a study guide. The website on which the course is hosted, Saylor.org Academy, does not make clear who created the course. But according to the website Exploring Economics it was Michigan Technological University.
Series "Online courses per topic":
Do you feel like you have enough knowledge to contribute to debates in the area of the ethics of markets, economics and business? If not, this series of blog posts introduces ‘Massive Open Online Courses’ (MOOCs) that you can take from anywhere in the world.
Articles in this series:
- PHILOSOPHY, POLITICS and ECONOMICS – Six Foundational Online Courses
- ECONOMIC GROWTH, INEQUALITY, JUSTICE and WELL-BEING – Six Online Courses
- BUSINESS ETHICS – Five Online Courses
- ALTERNATIVE BUSINESS MODELS – Five Online Courses
- HOW MARKETS WORK – Five Online Economics Courses
- FINANCE, MONEY and BANKING – Six Online Courses
- THE HISTORY AND FUTURE OF CAPITALISM – Six Online Courses
- MARX, MARXISM & COMMUNISM – Six Online Courses
- GLOBALIZATION & FREE TRADE – Six Online Courses