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What does it mean to work? How does capitalism shape the way we work? What might work look like in the future? In this three-part course, students engage with global capitalism’s past, present, and future, asking analytic and normative questions about work and the trajectory of capitalism. The first part of the course examines the historical origins of capitalism and leading theories about what capitalism is and how it stratifies the world into racialized social classes. A central theme in part one will be how capitalist labor relations shape meaning and subjectivity, particularly the experience of dignity. In part two, we examine recent and emerging trends in capitalist labor, such as the death of the career, the rise of the “gig” economy, platform capitalism, and even the seemingly inevitable end of work itself as entire occupations become automated by machine learning. A key question will be how these transformations exacerbate and/or alleviate longstanding inequalities from capitalism’s 19th century past. The course concludes by asking students to imagine what work might look like in the next century. Should we continue to work at all? What kinds of social activity should we value, and how would we go about taming, eroding, or even smashing capitalism to allow them to flourish?
Format: seminar; This class will be taught online only with both synchronous and asynchronous components. Students will be asked to attend one synchronous video meeting per week. The asynchronous portion will involve discussion of readings and video lectures.
Grading: no pass/fail option,
no fifth course option
participation, reading responses, midterm paper, final paper
Anthropology and Sociology majors