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2021/2022  BA-BSOCV2005U  Capitalism! From Crisis to Opportunity – and Back Again

English Title
Capitalism! From Crisis to Opportunity – and Back Again

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Bachelor
Duration One Semester
Start time of the course Autumn
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Min. participants 30
Max. participants 90
Study board
Study Board for BSc in Business Administration and Sociology
Course coordinator
  • Andrew Popp - Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy (MPP)
Other faculty:
Benjamin Ask Popp-Madsen
Stefanie Hansen Steinbeck
Main academic disciplines
  • Globalisation and international business
  • International political economy
  • Cultural studies
Teaching methods
  • Face-to-face teaching
Last updated on 01-07-2021

Relevant links

Learning objectives
On completion of the course the students are expected to be able to
  • Identify and describe capitalism as a complex concept, built around a framework of intertwining elements of crisis and opportunity.
  • Evaluate contemporary coverage of a past crisis.
  • Apply historical reasoning to course materials
  • Develop awareness of the importance of relevant historical contexts
Course prerequisites
Prerequisites for registering for the exam (activities during the teaching period)
Number of compulsory activities which must be approved (see section 13 of the Programme Regulations): 1
Compulsory home assignments
There will be one mandatory activity as a prerequisite for registering for the exam:
1. One in-class group presentation of a critical analysis of contemporary reporting of a historical crisis, or opportunity, of the student’s choice. This activity will promote and assess students’ understanding of contextualized historical sense-making, enhancing their skills in historical thinking. In-class presentations will include a peer feedback process.
Capitalism! From Crisis to Opportunity - and Back Again:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Home assignment - written product
Individual or group exam Group exam
Please note the rules in the Programme Regulations about identification of individual contributions.
Number of people in the group 2
Size of written product Max. 20 pages
Max. 10 pages for an individual paper / group of 1 person.
See CBS standard pages
Assignment type Written assignment
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
If a student is ill during the period designated for the written product then a completely new written product should be submitted
Description of the exam procedure

The exam will take the form of a set question.


However, students may choose the case to which they apply the question. The choice of case will need to be approved for suitability during the teaching period. Approval will take place via email. In answering the question students must draw on concepts, theories, and materials discussed during the course.


This is a group exam. Maximum number of students per group is 2. 

Course content, structure and pedagogical approach

2020 was a year of global challenges. The Covid-19 pandemic pushed to the limit the resources and institutions of many democratic nations; the final completion of Brexit threatened the European project; and a disputed election shook our faith in the the democratic credentials of the world’s largest economy. Already beset by catastrophic environmental damage, persistent and chronic inequalities, increasing racial cleavages, and a resurgence of nationalist populism, the global pandemic has exposed the fragilities of some of the world’s most advanced capitalist nations, particularly in North America and Western Europe. Thus, the inevitability of capitalism appears much less secure and continued uncertainties illuminate how capitalism entangles urgent political, environmental and social questions. Nonetheless, it is hard to imagine life outside of or before or after capitalism. Even critiques start from the inevitably of capitalism as we know it today. To question that inevitability is our task in this course.. That task has rarely been more urgent.


In this course we approach our task by placing the current moment in its historical context, analyzing capitalist dynamics as rooted in the interplay of processes of crisis and opportunity, an interplay through which societies try and make sense of the choices they are confronted with, choosing between alternatives, and shaping the form capitalism will take in a given context. Capitalism emerges not as driven by iron laws, but as an intensely human, messy, and contingent affair. Emphasizing human agency and choice allows us to understand not only the history that has led us to this point but how we might move forward in the future. 


Rather than attempting to offer a definitive, linear history of capitalism over the last 200 years, this course will use key switching points in that history to examine a range of core themes, including: growth, wealth, and inequality; global challenges of political and economic governance; capitalism and democracy; capitalism and climate change.


The aims and goals of the course are to introduce students to the dynamics of global capitalism over the last 200 years, exploring capitalist dynamics as the interplay of processes of crisis and opportunity. In the process, the course aims to “denaturalize,” capitalism, conceptualizing it as the outcome of human choice. A further goal is to introduce students to the notion of sense-making as a way of understanding how individuals and societies navigate crisis and opportunity and frame choices that will shape the future. In the process, students will be introduced to the concept historical thinking, strengthening their historical competencies. Ultimately, the aims and goals of the course are to aid students in understanding current crises, events, and challenges in their historical context and as the outcome of the dynamics traced in the course. Specific competences and knowledge students will gain include: knowledge of the history of global capitalism over the last years; competencies in applying historical thinking as an analytical tool.


In addition to the mandatory assignment, there will be one non-mandatory activity comprising a book/text report linked to the online reading groups (max. 3 pages). This activity will promote and assess students’ understanding of relevant core literature and concepts and will provide further opportunity for students to assess their progress and learning through feedback.

Description of the teaching methods
The course will combine a variety of methods. The majority of the teaching will consist of traditional lectures and seminars. However, the course will culminate in a student formulated and led debate on a critical question in contemporary capitalism. Alongside classroom-based teaching and learning the course will also feature a series of online, faculty led reading groups. Students are expected to participate actively in class. The curriculum offers a diverse and intersectional way to engage with capitalism, both theoretical and applied, by introducing the student to a variety of authors and thinkers and having a variety of mediums (text, podcasts, film, news, etc) on the course reader.

The course aims to strengthen students’ historical awareness, through critical engagement with specific cases that become historically constituted through a framework of capitalism as crisis and opportunity.

In addition, there will be one non-mandatory activity comprising a book/text report linked to the online reading groups (max. 3 pages). This activity will promote and assess students’ understanding of relevant core literature and concepts and will provide further opportunity for students to assess their progress and learning through feedback.
Feedback during the teaching period
Feedback will be given using a variety of means during the teaching period:
• Classroom teaching will be highly interactive and based in dialogue, particularly during the seminar element. The classroom thus provides an important, continuous forum for both faculty-student and peer-to-peer feedback
• Specifically, the mandatory in-class group presentation will involve focused faculty-student and peer-to-peer feedback. The associated non-mandatory paper will provide an opportunity for written or verbal group feedback
• Further, the moderated online reading groups will provide another opportunity for faculty-student and peer-to-peer feedback, as will the associated non-mandatory paper
• We will provide regular, clearly advertised office hours (public health measures permitting) and consultation via email.
• We will provide detailed examination preparation guidance
• We will provide oral feedback on examination performance on request.
Student workload
Classroom: lecture 15 hours
Classroom: seminar 15 hours
Classroom: exam preparation 2 hours
Online: reading group 6 hours
Examination preparation 72 hours
Weekly reading/classroom preparation 98 hours
Expected literature

Suggested readings: 

David Graeber (2014): Debt: The First 5000 Years. Melville House Publishing.


Per H. Hansen (2012), “Making Sense of Financial Crisis and Scandal: A Danish Bank Failure in the First Era of Finance Capitalism,” Enterprise and Society, Vo. 13, No. 3, pp. 672-706


Eric Hobsbawn (1975): Age of Capital, 1848-1875. Abucus.


Adam Tooze (2019), “Introduction: The First Crisis of a Global Age,” Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crisis Changed the World, pp. 1-22. Penguin Books.


Thomas Piketty (2020), “Introduction,” Capital and Ideology; p. 1–47. Belknap Press.


Karl Polanyi (1944): The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time, chapter 4-5 (’Societies and Economic Systems’ and ’Evolution of Market Pattern’). Beacon Paperback.


Quinn Slobodian (2020): Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neo-Liberalism. Harvard University Press.


E. P. Thompson (1971), “The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century,” Past & Present No. 50, pp. 76-136


Ellen Meiksins Wood (2002): The Origins of Capitalism: A Longer View, chapter 1 (’The Commercialization Model and its Legacy’), pp. 11-34. Verso Books.


Ellen Meiksins Wood (2008): Democracy Against Capitalism: Renewing Historical Materialism, chapter 6 (’Labour and Democracy, Ancient and Modern), pp. 181-204. Cambridge University Press.



“Capitalism in Crisis: Why Do Recessions Happen?” The Socialist Program with Brian Becker, December 2020 (37min) 


“Instability as Opportunity, American Capitalism: A History,” March 2014 (9 min)  


“Black History Capitalism & Systemic Oppression,” The Mix: A Diversity Podcast, June 2020 (1h 15min)


“Can Feminism and Capitalism Co-exist and the History of Market Misogyny.” Consensual, September 2020 (45 min). 

Last updated on 01-07-2021