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2023/2024  BA-BSOCV1028U  Capitalism! Competition, Crisis, and Transformation

English Title
Capitalism! Competition, Crisis, and Transformation

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
Max. participants 40
Study board
Study Board for BSc in Business Administration and Sociology
Course coordinator
  • Andrew Popp - Department of Business Humanities and Law (BHL)
Other faculty:
Benjamin Ask Popp-Madsen
Hannah Tucker
Main academic disciplines
  • Globalisation and international business
  • International political economy
  • Cultural studies
Teaching methods
  • Face-to-face teaching
Last updated on 14-08-2023

Relevant links

Learning objectives
On completion of the course the students are expected to be able to
  • Demonstrate knowledge and analytical understanding of the history of capitalism using a framework of crisis, competition, and transformation, drawing on course literature and materials.
  • Utilizing course literature and materials, demonstrate excellence in critically evaluating different theoretical perspectives on capitalism as an economic system of production and a structure of social relations.
  • Demonstrate excellence in analyzing the role and importance of historical context, contingency, and choice in processes of capitalist transformation
  • Demonstrate enhanced skills in historical reasoning and research through the critical application of relevant theoretical perspectives to empirical case materials
  • Demonstrate advanced understanding of the relationship between historical processes of capitalist transformation and contemporary economies and societies
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 transformation, of the students' 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! Competition, Crisis, and Transformation:
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
Release of assignment The Assignment is released in Digital Exam (DE) at exam start
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

The 2020s dawned amidst global challenges. The Covid-19 pandemic pushed to the limit the resources and institutions of many democratic, capitalist states. 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. Amidst these crises, competing systems for organizing enterprise, typified by the People’s Republic of China, demonstrated their continuing dynamism. Suddenly, the inevitability of capitalism appears questionable and continued uncertainties illuminate how capitalism entangles urgent political, environmental and social questions. Nonetheless, capitalism has demonstrated its robustness and resilience many times in the past. Thus, it remains hard to imagine life outside of, before, or after capitalism. To question the inevitability of capitalism’s dominance is our task in this course. That task has rarely been more urgent.

The aim of the course is to introduce students to the dynamics of global capitalism over the last 200 years, exploring the roots of those dynamics in the interplay of competition, crisis and ongoing transformation. In the process, the course aims to “denaturalize,” capitalism, understanding it as the outcome of human choice, strengthening students’ historical skills and understanding. Simultaneously, the course will aid students in understanding current crises, events, and challenges in their historical context and as the outcome of historical dynamics. Specific competences and knowledge students will gain include: knowledge of the history of global capitalism over approximately the last 250 years; theoretical understanding of capitalism as a dynamic economic and social system; and competencies in applying historical thinking as an analytical tool. Rather than attempting to offer a definitive, linear history of capitalism over the last 200 years, this course will use key crisis 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.

We approach these tasks by placing the current moment in its historical context, analyzing capitalist dynamics as rooted in the interplay of competition, crisis and transformation, an interplay through which societies try and make sense of the choices they are confronted with, selecting between alternatives. Capitalism emerges not as a unified system 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.


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. The course will culminate in a student led debate on a critical question in contemporary capitalism. 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.
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.
• 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 18 hours
Classroom: seminar 17 hours
Classroom: exam preparation 3 hours
Examination preparation 78 hours
Weekly reading/classroom preparation 90 hours
Further Information

This course, running for the first time, received outstanding student evaluations for academic year 2021-22. On a response rate of 62%, the overall course rating was 4.5. Individual teachers received ratings in range of 4.6 to 4.7. Comments from students give a rich sense of the experiences that lay behind these evaluations. 


"It was an honour to have Andrew, Benjamin and Stefanie as teachers. All three are so talented and most importantly patient, sweet and so empathetic. When Andrew teaches, you can clearly see, that he is an expert when it comes to history and that he has a talent for structuring and finding red threads in the things, he teaches. He is very open minded and I love that we often had debate/seminar like conversations in the class while it also felt an actual lecture. Keep up the fantastic work Andrew and thank you for all the lectures!"


"There were some great discussions that emerged out of your classes [Benjamin] and I think you did a great job exploring the texts."


"Really enjoyed your sessions [Stefanie], and I really like how inclusive you made the class to ensure everyone felt comfortable speaking."

Expected literature

Tentative reading list:

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 14-08-2023