For almost three centuries, some of the most interesting thinkers in history have grappled with capitalism. They have explored its key features, cultural prerequisites, and human implications with excitement, caution, or even fear.
Their writings have defended capitalism, argued against it, disagreed over how to characterize it, and questioned whether the human costs incurred in its practice can be outweighed by the obvious material benefits it brings.
These are some of the great minds you encounter in these lectures:
- Adam Smith: Although famous for The Wealth of Nations, this giant of the Enlightenment was in fact a moral philosopher and political economist whose ideas about capitalism, capitalists, and government exploded past any boundaries of "economics."
- Joseph Schumpeter: One of capitalism's most wide-ranging thinkers, Schumpeter published four books, at least three of which are considered seminal.
- Ferdinand Tönnies and Georg Simmel: Tönnies argued that modern history was moving away from tightly knit communities at emotional cost to the individual, while Simmel explored how capitalism offered new possibilities for individuality and community.
- Friedrich von Hayek: After a flirtation with reformist Socialism, Hayek embraced classical Liberalism, producing influential critiques of collectivism and the welfare state, sharing a Nobel Prize in economics, and winning broad acknowledgment for his work on the coordinating function of the marketplace.
These names only scratch the surface of the grand intellects Professor Muller discusses, who include Voltaire, Rousseau, Burke, Hamilton, De Tocqueville, Hegel, Marx, Arnold, Weber, Lenin, Schmitt, Marcuse, Gellner, Buchanan, and Olson.
Their insights can prove invaluable in every area of your life. They can surface in the decisions you make about family, work, and consumption; and they can give you a more thoughtful perspective on the ideas and behaviors of commentators, corporations, and governments.