Capitalism: Success, Crisis, and Reform

Course Number
PLSC 270
About the Course

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.

Course Structure
This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 50 minutes, was videotaped for Open Yale Courses in Fall 2009.

Syllabus

Professor
Description

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.

Texts

Adiga, Aravind. The White Tiger. Harper Collins India, 2008.

Buckley, Christopher. Thank You for Smoking. Random House, 1994. (optional text)

Chandler, Alfred D. The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business. Belknap Press, 1977.

Clark, Gregory. Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World. Princeton University Press, 2007.

Collier, Paul. The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It. Oxford University Press, 2007.

De Soto, Hernando. The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else. Basic Books, 2000.

Hayek, Friedrich. The Constitution of Liberty. University of Chicago Press, 1960.

Marx, Karl and Frederick Engels. Manifesto of the Communist Party (The Communist Manifesto). orig. pub. 1848.

Posner, Richard A. A Failure of Capitalism: The Crisis of ‘08 and the Descent into Depression. Harvard University Press, 2009.

Schumpeter, Joseph. Capitalism, Socialism, & Democracy. orig. pub. 1942.

Smith, Adam. Wealth of Nations, orig. pub. 1776.

Selected case studies from Harvard Business School and Yale School of Management

Requirements

Students are asked to write three short memoranda along with a midterm and a final. Reading in advance of class is important, and section discussions will presume preparation.

Grading

Three memoranda (800-1000 words each): 10% each
Discussion section participation: 10%
Midterm exam: 20%
Final exam: 40%

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Course Books and Other Related Titles

Yale University Press offers a 10% discount on the books used in PLSC 270 that it publishes, as well as on other related titles. A portion of the proceeds from your purchases will be donated for the ongoing support and development of the Open Yale Courses program.