First Writing Assignment

Please answer one of the following essay questions. In doing so, please offer detailed discussion based on close analysis of the readings for the class. The length of the paper should be 5–7 pages double-spaced.

1. Choose any three of the following theorists and compare their viewpoints on capitalism. How did each understand the nature of capitalism and its implications for society? On what basis did they offer their views? How and in what ways did their perspectives parallel or differ from the other two?

You might want to consider how particular historical influences came into play or whether they were in dialogue with or reacting against each other. Which arguments do you find most persuasive and why?

You may choose three of any of the following theorists:

  • Adam Smith
  • Karl Marx
  • Max Weber
  • Pierre Bourdieu
  • Laclau and Mouffe (you may count them as one since they write together)

2. In the 1940s, the work of Austrian economist F. A. Hayek and Austrian economic historian Karl Polanyi emerged out of the maelstrom of two world wars and attempted to address the question of whether or not capitalism was beneficial to society overall. (For Hayek, this question was linked to questions of individualism). In your paper, describe the viewpoints of these two theorists on capitalism. How and why did they see capitalism as either supportive or destructive of social relations? On what did they base their opposing viewpoints? In your view, who offers the more and less persuasive arguments about capitalism and why?