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2020/2021  KAN-CSOCV1033U  Markets, Money and Society

English Title
Markets, Money and Society

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Full Degree Master
Duration One Semester
Start time of the course Autumn
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Max. participants 60
Study board
Study Board for MSc in Social Sciences
Course coordinator
  • Stefan Schwarzkopf - Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy (MPP)
Main academic disciplines
  • Philosophy and ethics
  • Sociology
  • Economics
Teaching methods
  • Blended learning
Last updated on 25-02-2020

Relevant links

Learning objectives
After completing the course, students should be able to:
  • characterize the elements of the economy as a function system
  • explain the differences between planned and self-emerging economic systems
  • discuss markets and marketization as social phenomena
  • analyze and apply sociological concepts regarding the roles that money play in the economy
  • understand the linkages between marketization and new social futures
Markets, Money and Society:
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-point grading scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period Winter
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
Course content, structure and pedagogical approach

We are taking for granted that everything these days seems to have a price. But how come that a stock option, a pack of milk, or even an artwork and a human organ can all be valued in terms of price? This course looks at the inner mechanisms of how market economies actually create prices. The course will use a particular sociological approach, namely systems theory, to understand how and why price tags both manage and continuously recreate scarcity.


The course will introduce students to the social logics that make market systems work. In lectures, seminars and fieldwork, students will learn how market actors designate resources as scarce, and how money as a communication medium then leads market economies to reproduce themselves autonomously and creatively. During the course, students will move from a closer analysis of the functioning of money and markets towards a wider discussion of how money helps bring about the circumstances for its expansion as symbolic medium outside the economic system, where it then ‘colonizes’ other, previously non-economic systems – such as art, healthcare, child-rearing, environmental protection, education, and so forth. Finally, the course will end by discussing how systems theory can be used to analyze money perhaps even as a system of faith.


The course will cover a number of content areas, which correspond to the number of classes and the Learning Aims for the course:


  1. An Introduction to Self-Reproducing Systems
  2. Economic Order: Planned and Spontaneous
  3. Markets and Prices
  4. Choice and the Paradox of Decision-Making
  5. The Market and the Arts
  6. The Market and your Body
  7. Money and Payments   
  8. Bitcoin and Community Currencies
  9. Time and Fictional Futures in the Economy
  10. Economy, Faith and Religion
Description of the teaching methods
The course will use blended learning techniques, which combines (face-to-face) classroom teaching through lectures and group work with field excursions and technology-driven teaching.

As part of the class on markets and the arts, we will meet a gallerist in Copenhagen to explore the social logics that underpin the marketization of arts. As part of the class on markets and prices, we will play the ‘game of competition’: students will form groups and play a computer game that is now widely used in economics classrooms to teach principles of oligopolistic competition and price setting.
Feedback during the teaching period
Feedback will be given during dialogue-based teaching in the classroom and during the office hours. Students are particularly encouraged to use the in-class group sessions to discuss their exam assignment (synopsis) theme with fellow students and the lecturer.

Student workload
Readings and class preparation 120 hours
Class participation 36 hours
Exam & exam preparation 50 hours
Expected literature

Indicative Literature: 


Boldyrev, Ivan. ‘Economy as a Social System: Niklas Luhmann’s Contribution and its Significance for Economics’, in: American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Vol. 72, No. 2 (April 2013), pp. 265-292.


Borch, Christian. Niklas Luhmann. Key Sociologists (2011). New York: Routledge.


Esposito, Elena. ‘The time of money.’ The Illusion of Management Control. Palgrave Macmillan, London (2012), pp. 223-236.


Esposito, Elena. ‘Economic Circularities and Second-Order Observation: The Reality of Ratings’. Sociologica, 2 (2013).


Esposito, Elena. The Future of Futures. The Time of Money in Financing and Society. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar (2011).


Luhmann, Niklas. ‘Society, Meaning, Religion - Based on Self Reference’, pp. 208-233 in P. Colomy (ed.), Neofunctionalist Sociological Theory (1990). Aldershot, Hants: Brookfield.


Maturana, H. & Varela, F. Autopoiesis and cognition: the realization of the living (1980). Boston: Reidel.


Moeller, Hans-Georg. Luhmann Explained: From Souls to Systems (2006). Chicago: Open Court Publications.


Seidl, David & Becker, Kai Helge (eds.) (2006), Niklas Luhmann and Organization Studies. Copenhagen Business School Press.


Tække, Jesper & Paulsen, Michael. ‘Luhmann and the Media’, MedieKultur 49 (2010), pp. 1-10.


Teubner, G. ‘Economics of Gift - Positivity of Justice: The Mutual Paranoia of Jacques Derrida and Niklas Luhmann’. Theory, Culture & Society, 18, No. 1 (2001), 29–47.

Last updated on 25-02-2020