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Thinking about Capitalism

Narrated by: Jerry Z. Muller
Length: 18 hrs and 36 mins
Categories: Non-fiction, Economics
4.5 out of 5 stars (47 ratings)

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Summary

In these 36 engaging lectures, Professor Muller takes you deep inside the perspectives on this most important and pervasive force. You'll gain fresh insights that will strengthen your understanding of capitalism's rich history, its fascinating proponents and opponents, and its startling impact on our world.

These lectures take you beyond economic analysis to look at how some of the greatest intellects have thought about capitalism and its moral, political, and cultural ramifications. Covering capitalism from its 17th-century beginnings to today's era of globalization, Professor Muller explores some wide-ranging questions. What effect does capitalism have on personal development? What about the seemingly unending variety of consumer goods made possible by capitalism? Do the facts support our tendency to think about capitalism as the economic system practiced in "free" countries? Or can capitalism exist in a wide variety of political systems? These are just a few of the many provocative and absorbing questions and issues you'll untangle here.

By placing capitalism in its full societal context, these lectures will enhance your ability to consider, discuss, and answer these and other critical questions - whatever your point of view. Genial and disarming, Professor Muller connects the dots from idea to idea, thinker to thinker, and helps you finally grasp the history and the concepts of this vital economic system, as well as its importance on the global economic stage and in your own life.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2008 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2008 The Great Courses
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    3 out of 5 stars

Just a bit too much on th right for my taste

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Depnding on what they are looking for. The author talks about the points of view of many clasic phylosophers and economists about capitalism but avoids dealing with contemporary issues I was more interested on like the inestability of the financial sector or how capitalism affects climate change. In my opinion the author is a bit too much on the right for my own taste.

Would you be willing to try another book from The Great Courses? Why or why not?

Yes, I listened to some before and I will do so in the future, possibly not in economics though.

What does Professor Jerry Z. Muller bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Nothing, this isn't conceived as a book but a series of lectures so it wouldn't work in any other way.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Not much, it's quite factual.

1 person found this helpful

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Brilliant tour of the thinking

A thought provoking course, which has completely changed the way I think about capitalism, what it is, what it does and the effects it has on us.
Highly recommended.

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Great

Loved it, it was really engaging and just flew by. It could benefit a bit from some modern theory, development or an analysis of the financial crisis, as it seemed to go up to thinking in the 70's (although it was more modern in developmental economics)

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Absorbing and Informative

This series of lectures gave me exactly what I was looking for, a broad introduction to the history and philosophy of capitalism. Highly recommended for any looking to build a foundation of understanding from which to explore.

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The best on Great Courses

This is my favourite course in the great courses series. I've listened to it two times from start to finish and use it as reference for my essays very often. It's absolutely essential for everyone interested in the topic of international political economy.

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Illuminating

Prof. Muller is incredible at illuminating past thinkers' ideas about Capitalism.
This is really a course about how great thinkers have though about Capitalism.
I could not recommend it more.
Amazing

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Great book!

Amazing review of the current economic system, it's social and philosophical footings and how was evolved the last 500 years. It tends to be rather soft to its critic on the negative implications to civilisation.

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Thorough summation of 150 years economic thought

So easy to turn in an listen to chapter after chapter. Thoughtfully put together to give a very clear progression of how the philosophy of economics has developed over time. You can't help but come away from this with a profound understanding of the background to today's policies and difficulties.

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Interesting and informative

One of the most interesting lecture series I've listened to. It explains the dynamism of capitalism and its impact on modern societies. Before listening to this I understood that a combination of capitalism and science had given us the world that we live in; now I understand how capitalism and the free market have driven the establishment of many of the basic rights we take for granted such as Universal suffrage, education, equality and the rule of law. One of the ideas that sticks in my mind is that whilst many types of political systems have tried to harness aspects of capitalism with varying success, all liberal democracies are capitalist in nature.
If you've an interest in the subject matter I highly recommend this exceptional lecture series.

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  • Jake
  • 21-06-14

A great intellectual historical look at capitalism

Professor Muller exquisitely weaves the historical dialectic between the eminent thinkers of capitalism with the contexts surrounding it. He evenhandedly addresses each thinker and elucidates why each one was so influential. You will come away with a more nuanced view of capitalism after listening to this course. Leftists will move right and rightists will move left. Prof. Muller constantly intrigues with his knack for storytelling and explication of ideas, never allowing for a boring moment. Highly recommended.

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  • Sakari Nurmikko
  • 09-12-16

Excellent.

Profoundly interesting storytelling not only about capitalism but also history itself. I have started listening to this for the third time now. Filled with substance.

6 people found this helpful

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  • D. Park
  • 07-08-18

A terrific tour of the ideas behind capitalism

This one of the best great courses I've listened to. The Professor surveys how different people at different times and places have thought about trade and property, starting from the end of the middle ages up through the modern welfare state. Each lecture is devoted to an individual thinker. Some highlights include Friedrich Hayek, Joseph Schumpeter, Karl Marx, and the incomparable Adam Smith. If you're interested in how and why economies work the way they do and the effects of our economic systems on individual lives, this course is for you. Five stars.

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  • Christopher
  • 13-07-15

Dazzling and Essential

This course is a juggernaut. Every chapter feels like a precious jewel has been revealed. The professor is a whirlwind and is able to delicately weave complex themes together. The substance and lessons of this course are indispensable to understanding the world we leave in, historically, politically, economically, culturally, philosophically, etc.

Bravo, a hundred times.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Nancy G.
  • 14-10-14

Fantastic

If you could sum up Thinking about Capitalism in three words, what would they be?

Clear concise survey

What was one of the most memorable moments of Thinking about Capitalism?

Overview of Smith, Burke and Voltaire

What does Professor Jerry Z. Muller bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Anticipation-- economics can be wearisome but the narration made it come alive

What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

How poignant Marx and Marcuse can appear-- if you take them out of context.

Any additional comments?

I intend on listening to this lecture several times. I wish there was companion material

7 people found this helpful

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  • Tim Fernandez
  • 05-01-19

The best introduction to capitalism one could hope for!

I came at this book with almost no background in economics and understood near perfectly what the professor was putting across. Just wished I had such an engaging mentor during my school days.

If you’ve ever wondered whether capitalism is the culprit behind all the “instability” in the developed world today, there are answers here, though not direct or easy ones. If you think you’d be better off with communism or socialism, you most definitely won’t, and that’s explained here, too.

And if you’re thinking of spending a credit on this title to learn something new that isn’t in the least bit related to your current job or course of studies, you’re a happy participant and beneficiary of this imperfect but thus far unmatched economic system. Heck, you may even proudly call yourself a Capitalist! Who knew?

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  • GBecker
  • 14-07-17

Worthwhile

Balanced and worthwhile. I highly recommend. Professor Muller is fantastic. Listen to it on 1.10x speed though.

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  • Sam Motes
  • 01-08-13

Deep look at Capitalistc thinking

Digs beneath the usually invoked capitalistic thinkers of Smith and Marx to other intellectuals over the years who have added to the dialogue of talking about Capitalism. The lectures also go beyond the economic and political impacts to discussions on the impact on family dynamics.

8 people found this helpful

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  • CHET YARBROUGH
  • 31-03-19

CAPITALIST SELF-INTEREST

Professor Muller offers an interesting and insightful defense of capitalism. Jerry Muller’s “Thinking about Capitalism” is an historical account of economic theory.

Muller notes that capitalism is pummeled by many anecdotes of history. Muller does not deny the excesses of capitalism, but Muller suggests societal benefits from capitalism far exceed its detriments. He explores market, command, and mixed economic systems. In his journey through the history of economic systems, capitalism shines brightest.

Muller argues capitalism’s storied failures distort its multifaceted values. In the “Wealth of Nations”, a seminal work on capitalism, Adam Smith clearly explains the value of a capitalist (market) economic system is based on self-interest. Muller notes Smith’s use of the term self-interest is often misinterpreted by the public as greed.

Self-interest comes in many forms. One person’s self-interest may be altruistic in helping others to feel better about themselves. Another person’s self-interest may be to increase personal wealth to improve their family’s standard of living. Smith’s definition of self-interest is founded on virtue; i.e. behavior based on high moral values. The fundamental point is that everyone’s self-interest is a motivation that is ungoverned by an outside force. Self-interest is a part of human nature.

Fundamentally, Muller infers no modern economic system is better than capitalism. One draws that inference by Muller’s cogent explanation of the value of capitalist self-interest. Because Adam Smith’s concept of self-interest is an inborn characteristic of human nature, it will prevail over any economic system that requires command control. America has been a successful capitalist country in great part because of checks and balances that mitigate command control qualities of mixed economies. Hobbes assessment of human nature demands some level of command control; even in a capitalist economy.

One might argue that America’s avoidance of near economic collapse in 2008 is evidence of the importance of a mixed economic theory. (Interestingly, a December 18, 2018 “…Economist” article, written by Schumpeter, notes that China’s communist party control of businesses during Trump’s trade war have fared better than private businesses.)


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  • Jon
  • 26-12-17

Excellent!

A clear, fair, and thorough primer on the last “-ism” standing. Valuable perspectives and historical context for contemporary debates.

1 person found this helpful