Capitalism is a subject, not an object. It possesses no hypostasis, no human essence, and imposes no will, but it does reflect the values of the culture in which it resides. Capitalism is nothing more than the result of countless individual and corporate decisions; the capitalism we have is the capitalism we have chosen, and its redemption rests on the choices we are yet to make.
The devastating effects of recent economic crises have strengthened the voices of those who believe capitalism is inherently evil. Their remedy is the wholesale reconstruction of our economic system. In this class, we will examine the nature of such crises, and the pros and cons of seeking an alternative economic utopia.
After tracing the evolution of Western economics from precapitalist systems, to the traditional capitalism observed by Adam Smith, to the critique of capitalism of Karl Marx, to the modern capitalism observed by Max Weber, to today's "postmodern" form of capitalism, we will examine the unique relationship between economic activity and religious belief, especially the influence of Judeo-Christian teachings on work, worth, wealth, and business ethics.
Students will be challenged to imagine what capitalism would be like if individuals, companies, communities, and policy-makers made economic choices consistent with widely held moral standards. Through readings and group discussions, students will be asked to imagine the possibility of "virtuous capitalism" (i.e. an economic system with all of the wealth-generating possibilities of the capitalism we have, but with the social benefits of the capitalism we desire), and ultimately ask whether capitalism can, or even should be redeemed.