The Many Faces of Capitalism around the Globe — Past and Present

Jurgen Buchenau, History, UNC Charlotte

What is capitalism, and how did it come to be? Fellows will explore answers to these important questions, and they will learn that capitalism has varied greatly across time and space. From its beginnings in early modern Europe, economic systems based on free private enterprise have had a transformational effect, creating significant opportunities for economic development yet also contributing to a rising gap between the rich and the poor.

In the eighteenth century, Adam Smith defined capitalism as the free play of market forces without interference from governments; but after the 1929 stock market crash, economists called for a strong governmental role in the economy. Equally importantly, capitalism exists in many different manifestations throughout the world, ranging from the classic neoliberal capitalism of the United States through China’s state-sponsored capitalism to the social market economies of Europe and Latin America.

Our current debate about the vanishing opportunities for lower- and middle-class Americans rests upon a larger discussion, carried out over 250 years and across the globe, about fundamental questions about liberty, equality and justice. In this seminar, Fellows will learn to speak knowledgeably about capitalism in its temporal and geographical varieties. They will also be able to apply their insights to the classroom, from simple illustrations of credit and market systems in elementary school to more sophisticated discussions in high school.

Explore curriculum units developed by Fellows in this seminar here.