Workshop: Capitalism & Its Critics

The Charging Bull — Wall Street

The workshop

At the heart of modern politics is an unwavering commitment to capitalism. Familiarly, this is the doctrine of free markets, private property, and the maximization of profit. Less familiar perhaps is the fact that capitalism emerges in the history of ideas as a radical doctrine, with the emancipation of the worker among its animating concerns. This is one of the many points of contact between capitalists and Marx, their most profound critic.

In this workshop, we trace the classical foundations of capitalist political philosophy (Locke, Smith), as well as their contemporary reformulations (Friedman, Hayek), with a view to understanding both the nature of and arguments for capitalism. We then turn to critics of capitalism (Mill, Marx, Engels, Kropotkin) and investigate their complaints. Throughout, we will be concerned with understanding the relation between capitalism and various social/political ideals. Our questions will include: Does capitalism secure individual freedom? Is capitalism consistent with justice and equality? Is human flourishing possible under capitalist conditions? Or does a commitment to these ideals require, as its critics urge, a shift to non-capitalist social organization?

The plan

The first four weeks of the workshop will be devoted to the philosophical foundations of capitalism. We begin with Locke’s influential theory of private property. We then turn to Smith’s account of labor and capital and conclude this section of the workshop with Friedman and Hayek’s conception of the relation between capitalism and freedom. The remaining meetings will be devoted to critics of capitalism. We begin with Mill’s moderate criticism, before spending several weeks on Marx and Engels’ radical critique. We conclude with Kropotkin’s anarcho-communist concerns.

Meetings & participation

Meetings will take place every Friday on Zoom, 5:00pm – 6:30pm Cyprus local time, for a total of 10 weeks. The first meeting will be on Friday, April 2.

There will be assigned readings for each meeting. These will generally not be long (usually 10-15 pages), but may be complex, and so require some involvement. Participants will be expected to read these before each meeting, as well as attend sessions weekly. If you anticipate that meeting these expectations will be difficult, we advise against signing up.

Meetings and readings will be in English, to foster bicommunal/intercommunal dialogue. No prior knolwedge of philosophy/political theory/economics is required. Come as you are!

Registration

Participation is free and open to the public, though registration is required. Please click here to register by Sunday, March 28.

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The workshop will be facilitated by Rajiv Hurhangee. For questions, please reach out to rajivhurhangee [at] gmail [dot] com.