The Limits of 21st Century Capitalism

Instructor: Nick Srnicek Date & Time: Tuesdays, July 5 – 26 12:00–2:30pm EST

At the end of the 20th century, capitalism appeared stronger than ever before. The alternative economic systems had disappeared, inflation had become manageable, and the threat of major crises receded from the core capitalist countries. Proponents declared that we had reached ‘the end of history’, while economists assured themselves that their expertise led to a ‘great moderation’ that had overcome the business cycle. The fall from grace of the new economy in the early 2000s led to minor concerns, but economists and politicians were still confident in the security and success of global capitalism.

The 2008 crisis changed all this. Even as neoliberalism continued apace, economists suddenly became aware that something was amiss. Subsequently, the mainstream of the profession has become vocally concerned over the long-term problems facing capitalism. Larry Summers (ROLE PAST PRESENT) speaks of a ‘secular stagnation’, Joseph Stiglitz (ROLE PAST PRESENT) identifies the current moment as a ‘great malaise’, while economists like Robert Gordon and Tyler Cowen warn that the glory days of American growth are over. This is paralleled by the long-standing criticisms coming from the usual places – Marxists emphasising the decline in the rate of profit, or the expanding surplus population, while post-Keynesians warn of financial instability. All is not well.

This course will examine the long-term trends of contemporary capitalism – what it will undergo in the next few decades – and examines the major problems of global capitalism today. It will try to answer the question, what is the long-term outlook for capitalism?

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