Redeeming Capitalism


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. 

Programme details

Courses starts: 19 Sep 2022

Week 0: Course orientation

Week 1: Introduction—Why Does Capitalism Need Redeeming? 

Week 2: Capitalism—What Went Wrong? (Unpacking the Global Financial Crisis) 

Week 3: Economics—from Adam to Adam Smith (How Economic Exchange Evolved into Capitalism)

Week 4: Economics as Sociology (the Observations of Karl Marx and Max Weber) 

Week 5: Capitalism Under Fire - Part One (the Current State of Our Economic System and Various Alternative Suggestions) 

Week 6: Capitalism Under Fire - Part Two (the Current State of Our Economic System and Various Alternative Suggestions) 

Week 7: God and Mammon – Part One (Biblical and Theological Reflections on Money and Business) 

Week 8: God and Mammon – Part Two (Biblical and Theological Reflections on Money and Business) 

Week 9: Imagining Virtuous Capitalism (Common Grace and the Common Good) 

Week 10: Redeeming Capitalism (From the Bottom Up and the from the Top Down)


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Description Costs
Course Fee £238.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Prof Ken Barnes

Rev. Dr. Kenneth J. Barnes, FRSA, is Mockler-Phillips Professor of Workplace Theology and Business Ethics at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (Boston, MA). For thirty years Dr. Barnes combined a career in international business with pastoral ministry and academic research at institutions as diverse as Oxford University, King’s College London and Ridley College, Melbourne. This course is based on his highly acclaimed book "Redeeming Capitalism".

Course aims

To critically assess global capitalism, both structurally and morally; to see how it affects the lives of ordinary people; and to ultimately ask whether capitalism can, or even should be redeemed.

Course objectives

The objective of this class is to help students understand the relationship between theology and political economy and to apply what they have learned to their everyday experience of economics. This will be achieved by engaging with major works of economic thought; trends in sociology and moral reasoning; and biblical - theological texts.

Teaching methods

This class will consist of a series of lectures and class discussions, based upon the primary text ("Redeeming Capitalism") and its accompanying Study Guide. Students will be expected to participate in the class discussions. They will be encouraged (although not required) to share their own experiences of engagement with political economy and religious beliefs. Grade evaluations will be a combination of both written work and class participation.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

1. understand how capitalism works (including a consideration of alternative systems);
2. understand and articulate the relationship between theology and economics;
3. understand and articulate different biblical/theological, moral/ethical, and historical issues relating to political economy;
4. understand and articulate the relationship between faith, culture and economics;
5. understand and articulate the theological significance of the so-called ‘cardinal virtues’ and ‘theological virtues’;
6. understand and articulate the application of ‘virtue ethics’ in corporate decision-making and the development of corporate cultures;
7. be able to ask and answer the question: is capitalism redeemable? If so, how may people of faith contribute to its redemption? If not, how should people of faith engage with political economy?

Assessment methods

End of Week Five: 1,000-word Paper (students will either compare and contrast the capitalism observed by Adam Smith with the capitalism observed by Max Weber or compare and contrast capitalism and Marxism as socio-economic systems, with a particular emphasis on the biblical/theological and moral/ethical issues inherent in each system) – 25% of grade.

End of Term: 1,500-word Paper (students will explore whether postmodern capitalism is or isn’t redeemable and explore the socio-economic impact of their answers, with particular emphasis on the role of the church in engaging with political economy) – 40% of grade.
Discussion Groups (throughout the term, students will participate in discussion groups based on the Redeeming Capitalism Study Guide) - 35% of grade.

Students are expected to read 1,000 pages from the Reading List (including the required texts).

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


We will close for enrolments 7 days prior to the start date to allow us to complete the course set up. We will email you at that time (7 days before the course begins) with further information and joining instructions. As always, students will want to check spam and junk folders during this period to ensure that these emails are received.

To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

This is a 10 CATS point class. While there are no prerequisites per se, it would be helpful if students have some experience of business and/or economics, and a working knowledge of sacred texts and/or basic theological concepts.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)