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2016/2017  KAN-CSOCV1017U  Re-imagining capitalism

English Title
Re-imagining capitalism

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Full Degree Master
Duration One Quarter
Start time of the course Second Quarter
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Study board
Study Board for MSc of Social Science
Course coordinator
  • Ester Barinaga - MPP
Main academic disciplines
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Innovation
Last updated on 12-02-2016
Learning objectives
To achieve the grade 12, students should meet the following learning objectives with no or only minor mistakes or errors:
  • Describe the basic tenets of the four types of efforts to reimagine capitalism.
  • Challenge the boundaries of the current system and discuss the opportunities and limitations for change agents to impact the capitalist system.
  • Apply traditional strategic management frameworks to the challenges of today’s economy and discuss their limitations and potential expansions.
  • Identify the potentials and shortcomings of the various efforts to reimagine capitalism.
  • Explain and justify their position concerning the various experiments and imaginaries to reshape capitalism.
  • Discuss the legitimacy of corporate actors in different contexts and how it has changed over time.
Re-imagining capitalism:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Home assignment - written product
Individual or group exam Individual exam
Size of written product Max. 10 pages
Assignment type Essay
Duration Written product to be submitted on specified date and time.
Grading scale 7-step scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period Winter
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
Description of the exam procedure

Final written assignment; max. 10 pages. In a written essay, students will be asked to present a case (past or present) of their choice. The assignment should include a description of the case (written in a teaching case format of 2-3 pages) and an analysis of how the particular case contributes to reimagine capitalism (written in a teaching note format of 7-8 pages) You are welcome to take inspiration from
the many examples seen throughout the course or from other examples you may know of. The essay needs to engage the theoretical concepts and literature discussed in class.

Course content and structure

Growing inequality, catastrophic environmental damage, and a general mistrust in capitalism as a system currently hampers the legitimacy of companies and puts pressure on political systems worldwide. This course looks at various attempts to “reimagine capitalism.” It explores opportunities for addressing big societal problems and asks in particular how the private and the civil society sectors can contribute to developing more just and equal societies.


In the aftermath of one of the worst financial, economic and social crisis in post-war history, the discussion on the capitalist system and its form has intensified. As a response to big societal problems, many individuals, communities and organizations around the globe are experimenting with new business models. This course aims at exploring past and present efforts to re-imagine capitalism and introduces students to four distinct positions that are shaping businesses worldwide:

  1. Conscious capitalism – A growing number of business leaders, e.g. from Starbucks, Patagonia and Whole Foods, are building business models that go beyond the profit motive and shareholder value ideas. Conscious capitalism is about acknowledging the wider role of businesses in society. But, aren’t the terms “capitalism” and “conscious” contradictory or can the oxymoron be overcome?

  2. Social entrepreneurial initiatives – Although the “social” and the “entrepreneurial” are often seen as two opposing rationalities, social entrepreneurs insist on the synergies between these two ways of thinking and acting. From micro-lending programs to bio-toilets, social entrepreneurial initiatives are promoting social innovations that are changing industries and societies for good. Using real-life examples of social entrepreneurship, the course will look at the effects of such hybrid rationalities on the socioeconomic systems they aim to advance.

  3. Sharing economy – In the last few years, a number of initiatives emerged around the “sharing economy.” Airbnb, Uber, or couch-surfing are suggesting new types of business models. To what extent are the values informing the sharing economy proposing a truly novel economic system? And which are the obstacles to their economic and social success?

  4. Community economies – Economic practices that nourish the values of mutual aid, reciprocity, co-operation, and collaboration change communities from Mondragón in Northern Spain to New Orleans in Louisiana. Cooperative ownership models and alternative local currencies seem to empower communities to build their own economic and business environments. But are such initiatives scalable and can they be transferred between regions?


    This course is designed for students who want to explore the idea that some of the "big" societal problems can be effectively addressed by high performing private firms, civil society organization and social activists. Students will be exposed to the business realities that come with “reimagining capitalism” and will discuss obstacles and context factors for their implementation. Based on case study discussions of real-life businesses, students will learn how to develop realistic business models and implement them into practice by taking both the industry and socio-political context into account. We will discuss strategic management tools and consider if, and how, they should be adapted to the rethinking of capitalism.


Teaching methods
The course will combine a variety of methods, ranging from traditional lectures, case studies, Studio- based teaching, reading groups, and group presentations. Students are expected to participate actively in class.
Student workload
Course activities (including preparation) 156 hours
Exam (including exam preparation) 50 hours
Further Information

Course Faculty: Ester Barinaga & Christina Lubinski

Expected literature

Austin, J. & Elias, J. 2001. “Timberland and community involvement.Harvard Business School Case.

Burawoy, M. 2014. “Facing an unequal world.” Current Sociology, 63(1):5-35.

Cameron, J., Gibson-Graham, J.K & Healy, S. 2013. Take back the economy: An ethical guide for transforming our communities. Minnesota University Press.

Eggers, W.D. & Macmillan, P. 2013. The solution revolution: How businesses, government and social enterprises are teaming up to solve society’s toughest problems. Harvard Business Review Press.

Emerson, J. 2003. “The Blended Value Proposition: Integrating Social and Financial Returns.” California Management Review, 45(4):35-51.

Gibson-Graham, J.K. The end of capitalism (as we knew it).

Harvey, D. 17 Contradictions and a the End of Capitalism. Profile Books.

Krishnamurthy, P. & Winston, K. 2010. “Aruna Roy and the birth of the people’s movement in India.” Harvard Business School Case.

Mackey, J. & Sisodia, R. 2013. “‘Conscious Capitalism’ Is Not an Oxymoron.” Harvard Business Review.

Meyer, D.S. & Tarrow, S. 1998. “A Movement Society: Contentious Politics for a New Century.” In Meyer, D.S. & Tarrow, S. (eds.), The Social Movement Society, pp. 1-28.

Piketty, T. 2013. Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Belknap.

Sisodia, R. 2013. Conscious capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business. HBR Press.

Tilly, C. 2004. “Social Movements as Politics,” In Social Movements, chapter 1. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Press.

Zapata, M. et al. 2014. “Stop the evictions!”


Last updated on 12-02-2016