21A.S10 (Special Topic) Capitalism: Theories and Ethnographies Spring 2024

Thursdays 1-4pm


Register for 12 units

Prof. Chris Walley

This graduate class explores historic debates and theories about capitalism, while placing those theories into conversation with ethnographic studies of how capitalism plays out in daily life in different parts of the world. Students gain familiarity with the work of competing key theorists, including Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Max Weber, Pierre Bourdieu, Karl Polanyi, Friedrich Hayek, J.K. Gibson-Graham, Cedric Robinson and others. The class also considers the tensions between theoretical accounts and the complexity of lived experience captured in ethnographies. Why does capitalism garner both so much opposition and support? What are its moral, economic, social, political, and environmental implications? Is it a “system”? How has capitalism played out differently in different historical moments and geographic regions? Is there something distinctive about contemporary capitalism, alternately conceptualized as “finance capitalism,” “digital capitalism,” “surveillance capitalism,” or something else; and, if so, what are its effects?