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Global History of Capitalism

Princeton University via edX

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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.

Some of the questions we will discuss in this course are:
  • 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?

Taught by

Teal Arcadi, Caitlin Harvey, Rob Konkel, Felice Physioc, Miles Macallister and Niharika Yadav

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Karen C
5.0 10 months ago
by Karen completed this course, spending 6 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.
I have very little background in economics, so I took the course to understand some of the basic concepts and vocabulary. They tried a different approach in this mooc - a roundtable discussion rather than lecture/quiz - and I applaud that. I think it was successful. As a beginner, I frequently felt lost when reading the articles, but the videos helped to some degree, and the graded material was indeed at the basic level; yet there was room, in forum discussions, for far more in-depth exploration of topics. I think this was a great approach for a mooc that might attract students at many different levels of preparation.

fmi see post on my personal blog at
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