Spring 2020: Iah 231b – Is Another World Possible? Capitalism and Post-Capitalism

General information


Here is more information about Prof. Lotz

Class Meetings

Days: M/W
Time: 3 PM – 4:50 PM
Place: 135 Akers Hall

Office & Office Hours

Hours: Mondays, from 12:30-2:30pm, and, by appointment, on Mondays and Wednesdays between 9am and 12:30pm. We can also always talk after class on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Phone: 517.355.4490 [dept.])
Place: 518 S. Kedzie Hall

Other Contact

E-mail: lotz@msu.edu
Home Phone: please ask
Webpage: http://christianlotz.info


You will find my box in the front office of the philosophy department, SK 503



Jan 6, Introduction+Overview
Harvey, The Crises of Capitalism
How to Save the World From Financialisation: Interview with Grace Blakeley

Jan 8, The First Theory of Globalization in Marx/Engels
Marx/Engels, The Communist Manifesto, section 1: Bourgeois and Proletarians
online here: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/

Jan 13,  Seven Cheap Things
Patel/Moore, Introduction and Conclusion to A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things (D2L)

Talk by Patel, The History of the World in 7 Cheap Things

Section I: Opening Up the Black Box

Jan 15, Money, Debt & Capital Accumulation
Robbins, The Culture of Capitalism, Introduction, pp. 1-12
Keen, The Smoking Gun of Credit (D2L)

Harvey, The Rate and Mass of Growth, online here: https://youtu.be/m7c41IjNz_Q

Quiz 1 (2)

Jan 20, No class

Jan 22, No class
Class cancelled

Jan 27, The Black Box & Negative Market Externalities
Robbins, The Culture of Capitalism, Introduction, pp.1-12 and pp. 35-40 of chapter 2 and pp.127-133 of part II 

Jan 29, The Black Box & Negative Market Externalities
Robbins, The Culture of Capitalism, pp. 35-40 of chapter 2 and pp.127-133 of part II

Feb 3, Film

Film Paper Assignment 1 (5) [due: Feb 9 at 11:59pm, via D2L]

Section II: Major Issues of Global Capitalism

Feb 5, The Consumer
Robbins, The Culture of Capitalism, chapter 1, pp. 12-35 

Feb 10, The Laborer
Robbins, The Culture of Capitalism, chapter 2, pp. 40-57

In-class group assignment 1 (3) [due: Feb 11 at 11:59pm, via D2L]

Feb 12, The Nation-State
Robbins, The Culture of Capitalism, chapter 4, pp. 99-127
Neilson&Mezzadra, The State of Capitalist Globalization; here: https://www.viewpointmag.com/2014/09/04/the-state-of-capitalist-globalization/  

Feb 17, Migration
Robbins, The Culture of Capitalism, chapter 5, pp. 133-168

In-class group assignment 2 (3)

Feb 19, Hunger and Poverty
Robbins, The Culture of Capitalism, chapter 6, pp. 168-197

Feb 24, Ecology
Robbins, The Culture of Capitalism, chapter 7, pp. 197-220  

In-class group assignment 3 (3)

Feb 26, No Class
Class cancelled

Mar 2, No Class
Spring Break

Mar 4, No Class
Spring Break

Mar 9, Film

Film Paper Assignment 2 (5) [due: Mar 15 at 11:59pm, via D2L]

Section III: Transition – Think Outside the Box!

Mar 11, No class (due to Corona Virus)
I will send an email with further instructions by Sunday night.


Mar 16, GDP vs. Quality of Life
Stieglitz/Senn, Report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/documents/118025/118123/Fitoussi+Commission+report (read pp. 21-61)

Suspension Assignment 1 (5); due: 3/22 at 11:59 via D2L dropbox

Mar 18,  Zoom Meeting
Voluntary Zoom Session 1
Zoom link, send out via email at 2:30pm

Mar 23, How to Think Differently: The Common Good
Felber, Creating an Economy for the Common Good, preface & chapters 1-2

Suspension Assignment 2 (5); due: 3/29 at 11:59 via D2L dropbox

Mar 25, Zoom Meeting
Voluntary Zoom Session 2
Zoom link, send out via email at 2:30pm

Mar 30, Private Property & Motivation Issues
Felber, Creating an Economy for the Common Good, chapters 4-5

Suspension Assignment 3 (5); due: 4/5 at 11:59 via D2L dropbox

Apr 1, Zoom Meeting
Voluntary Zoom Session 3
Zoom link, send out via email at 2:30pm

Apr 6, Meaning&Democracy
Felber, Creating an Economy for the Common Good, chapters 6-7

Suspension Assignment 4 (5); due: 4/12 at 11:59 via D2L dropbox

Apr 8, Zoom Meeting
Voluntary Zoom Session 4
Zoom link, send out via email at 2:30pm

Section IV: Final At-Home Project

Apr 13, no reading

Final at-home paper and research project assignment will be sent out via email and be posted to D2L (20)

Topics for the final home project:
A Post-Growth vs. Green Growth Society
B Wealth Inequalities

Apr 20 – Apr 23,
You can request voluntary individual zoom sessions with me if you would like to discuss your final at-home project; I won’t accept requests for meetings after Apr 23 [email sent out on April 16].

Apr 26,
Final paper project due by Apr 26 at 11:59pm via D2L dropbox

Course Description

In this course we will examine our current world in a global perspective by critically analyzing our current world as a specifically capitalist world. I will help you to think more clearly about what global capitalism consists of and what its limits are, by critically thinking about the main components of global capitalism, such as money, capital, labor, state, negative market externalities, commodification, global poverty, global migration, and the destruction of our natural environments. We will look more closely into one of many recent proposals to think differently about economy and the social world by reading Christian Felber’s book on the common good. Finally, we will discuss a few selected real issues that help us to think more clearly about a different world in which your dreams have not been cancelled, such as ideas about sharing economy, post-growth societies, and more democratic participation in workplaces and cities.

IAH Course Goals

The mission of Integrative Studies in the Arts and Humanities is to help students become more familiar with ways of knowing in the arts and humanities and to be more knowledgeable and capable in a range of intellectual and expressive abilities.  IAH courses encourage students to engage critically with their own society, history, and culture(s); they also encourage students to learn more about the history and culture of other societies.  They focus on key ideas and issues in human experience; encourage appreciation of the roles of knowledge and values in shaping and understanding human behavior; emphasize the responsibilities and opportunities of democratic citizenship; highlight the value of the creative arts of literature, theater, music, and arts; and alert us to important issues that occur among peoples in an increasingly interconnected, interdependent world. The goals of IAH courses are to assist students to

  • Cultivate habits of inquiry and develop investigative strategies from arts and humanities perspectives;
  • Explore social, cultural, and artistic expressions and contexts;
  • Act as culturally aware and ethically responsible citizens in local and global communities.
  • Critically assess, produce, and communicate knowledge in a variety of media for a range of audiences; and
  • Recognize and understand the value of diversity and the significance of interconnectedness in the classroom and beyond.

IAH Course Goals Addressed in this Course

  • Develop a range of intellectual abilities, including critical thinking, logical argument, appropriate uses of evidence and interpretation of varied kinds of information. (quantitative, qualitative, text, image)
  • Become more knowledgeable about other times, places, and cultures as well as key ideas and issues in human experience.
  • Appreciate the role of knowledge, and of values and ethics in understanding human behavior and solving social problems
  • Recognize the responsibilities and opportunities associated with citizenship in a democratic society and an increasingly interconnected, interdependent world.

Specific Course Goals

This lecture class should students introduce to

  • think more clearly about money, debt, and capital
  • how to think about fundamental aspects of global capitalism
  • think more clearly about the role of money, debt, and market externalities
  • think more clearly about resistance to capitalism (indigenous+systemic)
  • envision a different world based on the concept of the common good
  • creatively think through a few selected aspects of a future world that is already around the corner

Diversity Requirement (D)

This course is designated as a Diversity (D) course and has been approved toward meeting the University Diversity Requirement. Courses designated as “D” emphasize intercultural and diversity issues, ideas, and perspectives unconnected to geography or nation. The “D” designates a connection between intercultural and diversity topics that emphasizes the intersectionality of diverse identities and critical approaches to dominant narratives, institutions, and practices. Overall, courses with “D” focus on themes and questions that transcend time, space, and location. The learning objectives and outcomes of the course will emphasize this designation and provide a guide for how this course furthers understanding of diversity at MSU and beyond.


Real learning is not properly measured by multiple-choice tests; especially since in the humanities there is no specific content of a sort that may be covered well in standardized examinations, which every student in the humanities should be expected to master. Instead, you will – hopefully – come to recognize that this class is about a general intellectual reflection on our contemporary world that requires concepts and critical reflections. The class deals with your dignity as human beings and with your intellect and reason, which is best expressed in a form of learning that is based on understanding and insight, and not mere learning by heart. It is hoped that the class will stimulate the view that intellectual activity (and therefore human reality) has to do with the passion of thinking, and the passion of understanding of our world. Intense confrontation with texts is the center of this class. “Information” as something to be consumed is important but secondary.

Required Texts (Bookstore)

Please buy the following titles:

  • Title: Change Everything: Creating an Economy for the Common Good
    Author: Christian Felber
    ISBN: 9781786997470
    Publisher: Zed Books Ltd.
  • Title: Global Problems and the Culture of CapitalismAuthor: Richard H. Robbins
    ISBN: 9780205917655
    Publisher: Pearson College Division
    Note: The 6th edition only!!!

Please no digital editions!!!!

Additional copies will be posted to D2L

Course Organization

The course will be organized such that, ideally, each class period will include [i] “interactive” lecture, [ii] discussion time or [iii] response time. Students will be asked to intensively prepare a certain text or part of a text for the next class period.

Course Requirements

  • Daily reading and studying
  • 6 response sheets
  • final take-home exam
  • short film reaction papers & and short homework weekend assignments
  • unannounced assignments in class, including reading quizzes

Note on Lecture

The class and my lectures are solely based on the texts selected for class and require a thorough study and preparation of the material. I will primarily lecture on the readings, which will help you to more fully understand the texts. Therefore it is not sufficient for students to come to class without having prepared the texts. And indeed, in the exams you have to demonstrate whether you have appropriately prepared the readings selected for each lecture.

Note on Plagiarism

Every academic misconduct, such as plagiarism, will – without exception – lead to a failing grade in class. Check the Ombudsman’s page (see also note below on plagiarism): https://www.msu.edu/~ombud/

Note on Attendance

I hope and strongly encourage that students attend all lectures. However, I will not require attendance, as I think that college students should manage their own class attendance decisions. I will not call roll. Hence, it is up to you to come to class or not. However, if you do not come to class on a regular basis and participate in class, it is very difficult for you to achieve a good grade in this class, especially since you won’t be able to make up assignments in class. If you choose to attend class, please come on time, turn off cell phones and other electronic devices that interfere with your (and others’) concentration, have the reading prepared and be ready to participate. If you are not prepared, do not bother showing up. It is a sign of disrespect to your peers and the instructor to attend class unprepared. If you miss class, it is your responsibility to obtain class notes from a fellow student and to catch up on reading.

General Note on Preparations

I expect that you come to class having prepared the texts carefully and thoroughly. The reading for the next session, if not clear from the course schedule (below), will be announced at the end of the previous class. “Preparing for class” implies underlining and making excerpts from the text assigned; looking up unfamiliar vocabulary and writing them into a note book (I encourage you to keep a vocabulary booklet for all of your classes). Just reading the text won’t be sufficient. You have to study the material. Some vocabulary might not be sufficiently explained in a regular dictionary (this goes especially for philosophical terms), so it is necessary to consult additional sources, and the MSU Library Website is a great resource for nearly all questions in this regard).

Unannounced Assignments

There will be announced and unannounced reading quizzes, homework-assignments, and group assignments. Students who do not attend class (and have no written documentation) will lose all points. Reading quizzes, homework assignments, and group assignments cannot be made up without reasonable excuses (see above).

Class Response Sheets

Every student is asked to submit up to 5 class response sheets during the semester. Please download the form here (plus: print them out add it to your class folder). Response sheets must be submitted at the end of a class session. I do not accept late turn ins or turn ins by email.

Download response sheet (I will only accept answers that are given on this form)

Note about Response Sheets

You are not allowed to turn in response sheets during the last week of class!

Response Time

Selected response sheets will be addressed at the beginning of each class. This procedure will help you and me to clarify problems, reflect on topics, and to find answers to questions that came up during last class.

Film Response Papers

Films shown in class will be accompanied by short writing assignments (300-650 words). I will let you know in connection with the material and the “flow” of the class whether it will indeed be accompanied by an assignment. The documentary and feature film selected for this class are all high quality films that will demand your attention and challenge your critical judgment. The assignment will be passed out in class. These assignments cannot be made up, unless you show medical documentation. Accordingly, if you do not come to class on “film days,” then you might lose the points for the assignment. Film assignments will be submitted via D2L dropbox.

Final Assignment

There will be a final take-home essay questions assignment. It is due on the day of the final exam via D2L dropbox.

Make-Up Assignments

If we have assignments in class and you miss class on those days, you will not be able to make up the assignment. Students who miss assignments for excusable reasons (medical reasons&MSU related business&emergencies) must inform me via email, and will be permitted to make up the assignment. I will only accept written documentation.

Course Evaluation


1 final take-home project20 points
4 short film reaction papers10 points (reduced to 2 papers)
reading quizzes, in-class assignments, and suspension assignments20 points (11 points before class suspension + 9 free points)
Suspension assignments20 points
6 response sheets (use form) 30 points (everyone receives 30 points, due to class suspension)
   100 points


4.0 (=A)100 – 93
3.592 – 87
3 (=B)86 – 82
2.581 – 77
2 (=C)76 – 72
1.571 – 65
1.0 (=D)64 – 60
0.0< 60

GENERIC SYLLABUS (might not be applicable to each class)

Laptop/Cell Phone/Tablet Policy

You are not permitted to use laptops or cell phones in class, unless needed for medical reasons. Flat devices, such as tablets, are permitted  if you have purchased the literature required for class electronically. Please do not text under the table. Cell phones should be removed from tables. Failure to follow this policy will lead to unannounced assignments in class or to a lower grade (at the digression of the instructor).

Note on Cell Phones

Your cognitive capacity is significantly reduced when your smartphone is within reach — even if it’s off. That’s the takeaway finding from a new study from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin. Please also read this: Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?

Class Attendance

As mentioned above, I do not employ in my classes a class attendance policy. Having said this, you should be aware that class attendance is very important. When engaging in a philosophical and humanistic dialogue it is necessary to be an active and present participant in the ongoing discussion. If you miss class please do not email me asking if you missed anything important. Every class is important. You should get a study buddy for the class; a student in class who will inform you of what you missed. If you miss a class you can come to my office hours or make an appointment to discuss the material, providing you have read the material and you simply want to see if your understanding of the material is on target. Time in office hours will not be used to repeat the class lectures.

Grading Criteria + Paper Writing Tips

Check out this page for grading criteria, example of assignments, etc.

Online Research Sources

Unfortunately, some people think that the internet as such is a reliable source of information. If you decide to use online sources for additional information or your paper then do not just use one of the common internet search engines, such as Google; rather, use reliable academic sources, such as Britannica Online, or the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The Internet Ecyclopedia of Philosophy isn’t very good, but still acceptable. Check out MSU’s library resources! And, as with other sources, you must cite any online sources to which you refer in your essay.

Writing Center Information

MSU’s writing center offers excellent help on all matters regarding writing and learning. Check the website at http://writing.msu.edu for an overview and hours. For more information, please call 517.432.3610 or send an e-mail to writing@msu.edu.

Grief Absence Policy

I follow MSU’s general grief absence policy, which can be found here.

Integrity of Scholarship and Grades (Plagiarism)

The following statement of University policy addresses principles and procedures to be used in instances of academic dishonesty, violations of professional standards, and falsification of academic or admission records, herein after referred to as academic misconduct. [See General Student Regulation 1.00, Protection of Scholarship and Grades.]

Academic Honesty

Article 2.3.3 of the Academic Freedom Report states that “The student shares with the faculty the responsibility for maintaining the integrity of scholarship, grades, and professional standards.” In addition, the (insert name of unit offering course) adheres to the policies on academic honesty as specified in General Student Regulations 1.0, Protection of Scholarship and Grades; the all-University Policy on Integrity of Scholarship and Grades; and Ordinance 17.00, Examinations. (See Spartan Life: Student Handbook and Resource Guide and/or the MSU Web site: www.msu.edu) Therefore, unless authorized by your instructor, you are expected to complete all course assignments, including homework, lab work, quizzes, tests and exams, without assistance from any source. You are expected to develop original work for this course; therefore, you may not submit course work completed for another course to satisfy the requirements for this course. Students who violate MSU rules may receive a penalty grade, including but not limited to a failing grade on the assignment or in the course. Contact your instructor if you are unsure about the appropriateness of your course work. (See also https://www.msu.edu/~ombud/)

Plagiarism, from the Ombudsman’s page

Plagiarism (from the Latin plagiarius, an abductor, and plagiare, to steal) is defined by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on Misconduct in Research (take that!) as “ . . . the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results or words without giving appropriate credit.”

Accidental or Unintentional
One may not even know that they are plagiarizing.  It is the student’s responsibility to make certain that they understand the difference between quoting and paraphrasing, as well as the proper way to cite material.

Here, students are well aware that they are plagiarizing.  Purposefully using someone else’s ideas or work without proper acknowledgment is plagiarism.  This includes turning in borrowed or bought research papers as one’s own.

Turning in the same term paper (or substantially the same paper) for two courses without getting permission from one’s instructor is plagiarism.

The Spartan Code of Honor

Student leaders have recognized the challenging task of discouraging plagiarism from the
academic community. The Associated Students of Michigan State University (ASMSU) is proud to be launching the Spartan Code of Honor academic pledge, focused on valuing academic integrity and honest work ethics at Michigan State University. The pledge reads as follows:

“As a Spartan, I will strive to uphold values of the highest ethical standard. I will practice honesty in my work, foster honesty in my peers, and take pride in knowing that honor is worth more than grades. I will carry these values beyond my time as a student at Michigan State University, continuing the endeavor to build personal integrity in all that I do.”

The Spartan Code of Honor academic pledge embodies the principles of integrity that every Spartan is required to uphold in their time as a student, and beyond. The academic pledge was crafted with inspiration of existing individual college honor codes, establishing an overarching statement for the entire university. It was formally adopted by ASMSU on March 3, 2016, endorsed by Academic Governance on March 22, 2016, and recognized by the Provost, President, and Board of Trustees on April 15, 2016.

Plagiarism Avoidance Primer

Download document here.

TurnItIn Policy

Consistent with MSU’s efforts to enhance student learning, foster honesty, and maintain integrity in our academic processes, instructors may use a tool in D2L called Turnitin OriginalityCheck to compare a student’s work with multiple sources. The tool compares each student’s work with an extensive database of prior publications and papers, providing links to possible matches and a “similarity score.” The tool does not determine whether plagiarism has occurred or not. Instead, the instructor must make a complete assessment and judge the originality of the student’s work. All submissions to this course may be checked using this tool. Students should submit assignments to be screened by OriginalityCheck without identifying information included in the assignment (e.g., the student’s name, PID, or NetID); the system will automatically show identifying information to the course faculty when viewing the submissions, but this information will not be retained by Turnitin.

SIRS Evaluations

Michigan State University takes seriously the opinion of students in the evaluation of the effectiveness of instruction and has implemented the Student Instructional Rating System (SIRS) to gather student feedback (https://sirsonline.msu.edu). This course utilizes the online SIRS system, and you will receive an e-mail during the last two weeks of class asking you to fill out the SIRS web form at your convenience. In addition, participation in the online SIRS system involves grade sequestration, which means that the final grade for this course will not be accessible on STUINFO during the week following the submission of grades for this course unless the SIRS online form has been completed. Alternatively, you have the option on the SIRS website to decline to participate in the evaluation of the course. We hope, however, that you will be willing to give us your frank and constructive feedback so that we may instruct students even better in the future. If you access the online SIRS website and complete the online SIRS form or decline to participate, you will receive the final grade in this course as usual once final grades are submitted.

Social Media and Sharing of Course Materials

As members of a learning community, students are expected to respect the intellectual property of course instructors. All course materials presented to students are the copyrighted property of the course instructor and are subject to the following conditions of use:

  1. Students may record lectures or any other classroom activities and use the recordings only for their own course-related purposes.
  2. Students may share the recordings with other students enrolled in the class. Sharing is limited to using the recordings only for their own course-related purposes.
  3. Students may post the recordings or other course materials online or distribute them to anyone not enrolled in the class with the advance written permission of the course instructor and, if applicable, any students whose voice or image is included in the recordings.
  4. Any student violating the conditions described above may face academic disciplinary sanctions.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities should contact the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities to establish reasonable accommodations. For an appointment with a counselor, call 353-9642 (voice) or 355-1293 (TTY)

Mental Health Services

College students often experience issues that may interfere with academic success such as academic stress, sleep problems, juggling responsibilities, life events, relationship concerns, or feelings of anxiety, hopelessness, or depression. If you or a friend is struggling, we strongly encourage you to seek support. Helpful, effective resources are available on campus, and most are free of charge.

  • Drop by Counseling & Psychiatric Services (CAPS) main location (3rd floor of Olin Health Center) for a same-day mental health screening.
  • Visit https://caps.msu.edu for online health assessments, hours, and additional CAPS services.
  • Call CAPS at 517.355.8270 any time, day or night.
  • 24-Hour MSU Sexual Assault Crisis Line 517.372.6666 or visit https://centerforsurvivors.msu.edu/

Title IX and Mandatory Reporting

Michigan State University is committed to fostering a culture of caring and respect that is free of relationship violence and sexual misconduct, and to ensuring that all affected individuals have access to services.  For information on reporting options, confidential advocacy and support resources, university policies and procedures, or how to make a difference on campus, visit the Title IX website at titleix.msu.edu.

Essays, journals, and other materials submitted for this class are generally considered confidential pursuant to the University’s student record policies.  However, students should be aware that University employees, including instructors, may not be able to maintain confidentiality when it conflicts with their responsibility to report certain issues to protect the health and safety of MSU community members and others.  As the instructor, I must report the following information to other University offices (including the Department of Police and Public Safety) if you share it with me:

  • Suspected child abuse/neglect, even if this maltreatment happened when you were a child;
  • Allegations of sexual assault, relationship violence, stalking, or sexual harassment; and
  • Credible threats of harm to oneself or to others.

These reports may trigger contact from a campus official who will want to talk with you about the incident that you have shared.  In almost all cases, it will be your decision whether you wish to speak with that individual.  If you would like to talk about these events in a more confidential setting, you are encouraged to make an appointment with the MSU Counseling and Psychiatric Services.

On & Off Campus 24 Hour Emergency Services:

National Suicide Prevention (Lifeline)
Collect Calls Accepted 24 Hours
1-800- 273-TALK (8255)

MSU Police Department
Emergency: 911
Business Line: (517) 355-2221

MSU Counseling Center Sexual Assault Program
(517) 372-6666

Community Mental Health
(800) 372-8460
(517) 346-8460

MSU Safe Place (Domestic Violence Shelter)
Crisis Line: (517) 355-1100

Drops and Adds

The last day to add this course is the end of the first week of classes. The last day to drop this course with a 100 percent refund and no grade reported is (see Academic Calendar). The last day to drop this course with no refund and no grade reported is (see Academic Calendar). You should immediately make a copy of your amended schedule to verify you have added or dropped this course.

Note on Attendance

Students who fail to attend the first four class sessions or class by the fifth day of the semester, whichever occurs first, may be dropped from the course.