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  3. The Ethics of Capitalism

The Ethics of Capitalism (PHIL20044)

Undergraduate level 2Points: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2018
Subject levelUndergraduate Level 2
Subject codePHIL20044
Semester 1
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

Capitalism is now the dominant way of organizing economic production and other aspects of social life in most countries. But there are many who feel that capitalism is morally troubling, or even evil. This subject aims to develop a moral evaluation of capitalism in its various forms, and to address specific moral concerns about it. Possible questions include: In what way is capitalism related to such things as exploitation, overconsumption, and excessive competition? Are these inevitable problems or can they be addressed through regulation? What sort of limits should be placed on individual property rights, the activities of corporations, and flows of inherited wealth? Should some services never be privatized? This subject will address these questions with the help of classic and contemporary readings in the egalitarian, utilitarian, and classical liberal traditions.

Intended learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete this subject will:

  • Gain a familiarity with a variety of core texts in political philosophy relevant to the moral foundations of capitalism, and be able to both interpret and evaluate their main arguments.
  • Be able to understand a number of concepts that arise in moral arguments about capitalism, including exploitation, freedom, competition, ownership, and equality.
  • Learn how to defend, and not just coherently state, one’s own position with regard to controversial questions in political philosophy.
  • Gain an understanding of how topics in political philosophy overlap with the subject matter of other disciplines, especially economics.
  • Work individually, and in groups, to clarify problems, apply reasoning techniques to different issues, and to critically evaluate the results.

Last updated: 8 January 2019