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2022/2023  KAN-CSOCV1026U  Re-Imagining Capitalism. Towards Just and Sustainable Futures

English Title
Re-Imagining Capitalism. Towards Just and Sustainable Futures

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 50
Study board
Study Board for MSc in Social Sciences
Course coordinator
  • Lara Monticelli - Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy (MPP)
Main academic disciplines
  • CSR and sustainability
  • International political economy
  • Sociology
Teaching methods
  • Blended learning
Last updated on 07-02-2022

Relevant links

Learning objectives
  • Define capitalism and learn about its evolution over the course of modern history;
  • Describe the various critiques posed to capitalism by critical theory and other sociological theories;
  • Interpret some of the most pressing societal issues (ecological crisis, rising inequalities, gender rights) in light of the contemporary debates on capitalism;
  • Describe the basic tenets of the various efforts to reimagine capitalism;
  • Challenge the boundaries of the current capitalist system and discuss the opportunities and limitations for change agents to positively impact it;
  • Identify the potentials and the shortcomings of the various efforts to reimagine capitalism;
  • Produce an original piece of written work for the final exam engaging with theories and empirical case studies in a coherent, critical and structured manner;
  • Learn to think in a creative, critical and imaginative manner.
Examination
Re-Imagining Capitalism. Towards Just and Sustainable Futures:
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
Description of the exam procedure

In the written individual essay-exam (10-pages long), students will be asked to discuss a case or a theoretical debate of their choosing. The essay needs to critically engage with the theoretical concepts and literature discussed in class. For this reason, class attendace and proactive participation are essential in order to pass the exam

 

In the essay, students must engage explicitly with one (or more than one) of the sessions that composed the course. Students need to make it clear for the reader which session(s) the essay is centered on. Students must deploy concepts discussed in class by explicitly referring to the authors and the readings listed in the essential reading list. Of course, students are welcome to refer also to additional authors listed in the optional reading list or to movies/documentaries listed under each session.

 

Students are expected to write a critical essay, this means that it is not enough to write a summary of the readings in order to pass the exam. Students are expected to apply concepts to an empirical case study or/and discuss a theory, a concept or a debate by bringing in their “voice”. This does not mean that they put forward their personal opinion about the topic(s), but that they discuss theories and/or cases in their own original way, by, for example, bringing different theories into dialogue with one another, or discussing a case from a new theoretical perspective. In this sense, it is important that students do justice to the readings, i.e., that they clearly put forward what the original idea by the author is before applying it or combining it with other theories.

 

To make a "voice" coherent throughout the essay, it helps to have a clear research question formulated before starting to write, a question which is put forward at the beginning of the essay. This enables the student to check with each of the sections of the essay whether/how they contribute to answering that question.

 

More details regarding the exam content, layout and format will be provided through Canvas towards the end of the course.

Course content, structure and pedagogical approach

In order to critically understand the ongoing multiple crises on the economic, social and environmental level and in order to envision sustainable and just futures, an understanding of the current socio-economic system, namely capitalism, is a fundamental and foundational prerequisite. 

 

In the last years, and especially after the North-Atlantic financial crisis of 2007-2008, many scholars and observers have underlined the unsustainability of capitalism and the need to re-imagine our economies, their underlying logic, and their functioning mechanisms. Even the economic newspaper Financial Times has recently launched a media campaign and a column titled “Capitalism: Time for a Reset” encouraging business leaders to challenge the past decade's dominant business tenets of infinite growth and profits, and opening up the debate on topics such as the ethics of investing, the risk in big technology and the future of the corporate world.

 

As a response to this emerging awareness, many individuals, communities and organizations around the world are experimenting with new governance structures, with "purpose-driven" ways of doing business, with alternative ways of producing and consuming goods, and with non-conventional lifestyles. Some of these practices come from local, self-organized, grassroots societal niches but have the potential to disrupt the status quo by prefiguring in the present a better society for the future. For this reason, it is important to get to know them and interpret them not only as niches of innovation, but as seeds of scalable social and economic change.

 

The underlying “big” question to the course is the following:

 

Can we re-imagine and reform contemporary capitalism “from within” to make it a more just and sustainable system, or do we need to implement a totally new socio-economic system, a system able to sustain the flourishing of human and non-human life throughout the 21st century? 

 

The course is organized in three main blocks.

 

The first part titled “Theories and Critiques of Capitalism” will allow the students to define capitalism and understand its evolution over the course of modern history until today. In this part, we will also get an overview of the main critiques posed to capitalism by classic social theory and by civil society. In parallel with these theoretical debates, we will learn how to frame, in light of the functioning of contemporary capitalism, some of the most pressing societal issues such as the ecological crisis in the Anthropocene, the call for more equality and recognition by feminist social movements and LGBTQI communities, and the sky-rocketing inequalities between the Global North and South.

 

This will allow us to transition to the second block titled “Transformative Practices Towards Just and Sustainable Societies”. In fact, after the critique, the pars destruens, comes the pars construens: the proposal for alternatives. In this part, mostly based on case study discussions of existing communities, firms, networks, social movements and organizations, students will learn about the values, logics, strategies, practices, risks and challenges to ameliorate our economies and societies. Among the empirical case studies deployed, we find the case of the biggest and oldest intentional community in the world, Auroville in the South of India, the case of social and solidarity economy in the Global South, the alternative food network of consumer-citizens in Italy, and, finally, the case of local democracy and local municipalism inspired by Kate Raworth's "doughnut economics" model. Most of the sessions in this part will include the participation of (in person or online) invited guests from civil society, the public and the private sector to share their experience and reflections on how to transform organizations and communities towards a more just and sustainable world. 

 

The third and final part of the course is titled “Future Imaginaries and Conclusions”. In this part we will discuss – inspired by fictional and sci-fi recounts present in books, movies and pop-culture - on how the future of our societies and economies will look like. The growing use of artificial intelligence, robots, automation, for instance, is fostering a vibrant debate on the seemingly uselessness of human work and on the potentialities and risks resulting from the increasing intelligence of robots. Similarly, apocalyptic recounts on the potential consequences of climate change and the destruction of natural habitats are thought provoking and alarming. What will human societies look like in the future? How can we steer positive change to avoid ecological and social catastrophes? Shall we shift our values, beliefs and the idea that humankind is the dominant species on this planet? This final part of the course will encourage us to use our creative and critical minds to tackle important and fascinating issues. Contemporary sci-fi movies and books will be used to stimulate our discussions.

 

Description of the teaching methods
The course will combine a variety of methods, ranging from traditional lectures, games, discussions, creative learning exercises, case studies, studio- based teaching, reading groups, and group presentations.

Students must read the essential reading material (listed in the course syllabus) before every class and are expected to actively participate during each session.
Feedback during the teaching period
Feedback is crucial for learning. In each class session, students will be engaged in active group exercises and discussions, where a series of peer-to-peer feedback tools will be practiced. Furthermore, feedback will be given to the entire class by the teacher at the beginning and end of each session. Finally, office hours (that students can attend individually or in group) will provide an opportunity for further personalised feedback.
Student workload
Course activities (including preparation) 156 hours
Exam (including exam preparation) 50 hours
Further Information

Course Faculty: Lara Monticelli (course coordinator and main lecturer), Charlotte Cator (co-lecturer)

Expected literature

Suggeted Preliminary References (provisional - See course syllabus for the complete reading list):

 

Chomsky N and Pollin R (2020) Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal. London: Verso Books

 

Fraser N and Jaeggi R (2018) Capitalism: A Conversation in Critical Theory. Cambridge: Polity Press.

 

Jaeggi R (2013) What (if anything) is wrong with capitalism? Dysfunctionality, exploitation and alienation: Three approaches to the critique of capitalism. The Southern Journal of Philosophy 4(1): 44-65.

 

Wright E O (2010) Envisioning Real Utopias. London: Verso Books.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last updated on 07-02-2022