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Princeton University

Global History of Capitalism

Princeton University via edX

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Since the global financial crisis of 2008, there has been an explosion of interest in the history of capitalism. Some narratives focus on enormous waste, environmental destruction, overpowered corporations, exploitation of workers, or outrageous inequality. Others are more positive, telling a story about unparalleled prosperity, longer life expectancies, integration of markets, connectivity among peoples, and poverty alleviation.

In this course, we emphasize the complexity of capitalism over such neat narratives. By looking at capitalism through a global lens, we investigate multiple types of explanations and impacts on local, national, regional and global levels. We also examine a range of different topics deeply connected to the evolution of capitalism; including labor relations, migration, commodities, consumption, finance, war, imperialism, development, energy, and the environment.

Some of the questions we will discuss in this course are:

  • How is capitalism related to globalization?
  • What are the important institutions of global capitalism?
  • How can we understand consumption and capitalism by following the production, supply and demand chains of commodities like rubber, sugar or petroleum?
  • What is the role of the state in the development of capitalism, and is there a relationship between capitalism and empire?
  • Is global capitalism environmentally sustainable?
  • Why did some countries industrialize, while others didn’t?
  • Why do labor markets develop?
  • Is there an inherent tension between capitalism and democracy?

Taught by

Teal Arcadi, Caitlin Harvey, Rob Konkel, Felice Physioc, Miles Macallister and Niharika Yadav


5.0 rating, based on 5 Class Central reviews

Start your review of Global History of Capitalism

  • I have very little background in economics, so I took the course to understand some of the basic concepts and vocabulary. They tried a different approach in this mooc - a roundtable discussion rather than lecture/quiz - and I applaud that. I think i…
  • Anonymous
    Wonderful class! The instructors really made the content accessible despite my limited background in economic history, and even with short readings were able to start a lot of thought-provoking conversations. I feel better informed about the major themes in the history of and discussion surrounding capitalism and am excited to hopefully learn more in the future.
  • Profile image for Richard Van Egas
    Richard Van Egas
    The course covers success and failure behind a model born after the industrial revolution ... The inability of the system to erase poverty, to be sustainable by not harming earth's ecosystem and why it is a better alternative to communism, fascism or zoocialism not to mention : slavery, serfdom or mercantilism
  • Mpho Tshoagong
    The course was very stimulating however I should take the course again more extensively to gain more insisht and aside from that it would be great to study in the law program or history program at Princeton University thank you and please send my statements of accomplishment through my e-mail address at [contact details detracted] thank you.
  • Profile image for Uriel Abulof
    Uriel Abulof
    very informative, and important, course - capitalism has shaped the world we live in. knowing how we got here is the first step in making it better.

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