The Making of Economic Society

In order to make sense of contemporary societies, we need to give serious consideration to the history of ideas and societies. The broad economic problem faced by societies throughout history has been 1) what to produce, 2) how to produce, 3) for whom to produce, and 4) how to distribute the output. Free market capitalism today offers one - but not the only - set of solutions to this economic problem. Alternative solutions, such as tradition and command, have existed and continue to exist to a certain degree. The objective of this seminar is to reveal and discuss the social forces around material production and distribution that have gradually created the modern economic world in which we live. Following the works of Robert Heilbroner and William Millberg, we will lay down the main tenets of different economic systems —such as slavery, feudalism, and capitalism— which will allow students to rethink economic development, the effectiveness of unregulated markets, the role of government, world poverty, and global imbalances. After studying the dynamics of the Great Depression, the Golden Age of Capitalism, and the Great Recession from a historical perspective, we will close the module by discussing current economic issues and possibilities for the future of our world. Will there be an overcrowding of markets, in the coming three or four decades? Will the social and ecological costs of the system lead to a collapse? How can we stop climate change? What are the limits of capitalist growth? Under which conditions might a reformed capitalism be saved? Immanuel Wallerstein, Randall Collins, Michael Mann, Georgi Derlugian and Craig Calhoun’s projections regarding the future of capitalism will help us answer these interesting questions.