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World Capitalism and its Critics


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to MA students in Philosophy 60 EC, specialisation Philosophical Perspectives on Politics and the Economy.


While the world economy is widely understood to be capitalist, capitalism has never been a unified concept and the nature, origins, and future of capitalism remain the subject of intense debate. After the fall of communism some proclaimed that capitalism had triumphed. And yet today the merits capitalism are increasingly in doubt. At the very least, the Corona pandemic and its fallout has left the American variety of capitalism thoroughly discredited. To its champions, capitalism remains the most efficient and productive way of organizing economic activity and maximizing human freedoms. Whereas critics find capitalism to be an exploitive, oppressive, and damaging social system that threatens our very future. Can both be right? More practically, how can debates on capitalism inform the development of feasible alternatives within capitalism or to capitalism itself?

Proceeding from an assessment of the effects of capitalism on the human condition and nature, this course explores the contested meanings, merits, empirics of capitalism. It furnishes an understanding of the attributes and development of capitalism, both in abstract terms and as a set of world historical phenomena. Embracing a multidisciplinary approach that draws from philosophy, the social sciences, the humanities, and relevant policy fields, this course links contemporary debates on capitalism and the ideas of some of the world’s most prominent thinkers, past and present, developing an analysis that reflects diverse intellectual, geographical, and social-historical vantage points.

Course objectives

This course aims to provide students with a critical understanding of capitalism and its discontents.

Students who successfully complete the course will posses:

  • a critical understanding of world capitalism, both ideationally and in real terms;

  • ideas and tools for making sense of capitalism in fields that most concern them.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • analyze contemporary debates on capitalism from an historically informed perspective;

  • articulate well-reasoned positions on questions addressed in the course content.


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Class attendance is required.

Assessment method


Assessment for the course is based on the following activities:

  • Timely submission of 10 weekly written journal assignments of one to two pages

  • Participation in and facilitation of weekly discussions

  • A mid-term assessment in the form of a take home assignment

  • A final assessment in the form of an end-of-term paper


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of the assessments according to the following break down:

  • Timely submission of 10 weekly written assignments: 30%

  • Participation in and facilitation of weekly discussions: 20%

  • Mid-term assessment: 20%

  • End-of term paper: 30%


The resit consists of a take home assignment and a paper. The grade will replace previously earned grades for mid-term and final assessments and will count for 50% of the final grade. The results for the other exam components (weekly written assignments and participation) remain in place.
Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination cannot take the resit.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

A reading list will be made available on Brightspace.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the information bar at the right hand side of the page.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc., contact the Education Administration Office Huizinga


Not applicable.