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Jerry Z. Muller


The Great Courses, Chantilly, Virginia, 2008, 36 lectures on DVD with two volume transcript, time line, Glossary, biographical notes, bibliography.


Reviewer comments: This is an excellent lecture series with full printed transcript. It adds to Professor Muller's book The Mind and the Market, which is also about the ideas of significant philosophers and political commentators about capitalism. It has a similar format or structure. Dr. Muller discusses - the political, economic, social, and intellectual environment in which the author lived - his family background and personal biases - his thoughts expressed about capitalism broadly considered - and something about the subsequent relevance of his views to posterity. Each lecture is focused on one or several related authors. Each lecture (and book chapter) has a set of questions and recommended additional readings.

To me the importance of this book and others like it is the importance of ideas. My view is - 1 actions that form the general basis of the history we study - 2 stem from and are the result from decisions. and - 3 decisions are based on beliefs which are ideas either consciously expressed or unconscious reactions to 'wired' recesses of the brain. Thus to understand history one must focus some attention on the beliefs that generated the actions described in the accounts - including also the beliefs of the individuals who wrote the descriptions.


Chapter One - Why Think about Capitalism?

The author states that he is an 'intellectual historian' that is a student of the development and influence of ideas in society. He considers the usual public understanding of what constitutes 'capitalism'. But, he writes, "The premise of this series of lectures is that there is a lot more to capitalism than that- that capitalism is too important and complex to be left to the economists. That is because capitalism involves a great deal more than what we typically think of as economic." He gives examples. He indicates that the underlying social, cultural, economic conditions in which capitalism began, expanded, changed themselves changed. The resulting form of capitalism today is different from its form in the 18th century. In order to discuss a concept such as capitalism we must establish what are the characteristics that we are discussing. He discusses some characteristics commonly believed: 1 is private property -2 is exchange between legally free individuals and 3 is that it is a system in which the production and distribution of goods operate primarily through the market mechanism. Yes, these are the standard characteristics one finds in usual definitions.

But I happen to disagree, since I have a different view on what ideas resulted in the decisions that created the essential nature of capitalism. Of course everyone knows that the term ' capitalism' was not coined until in the 19th century after it had existed for centuries and by dogmatic opponents who created the term in order to denounce it. No matter, Dr. Muller explains and evaluates the standard characteristics that define capitalism.


Chapter Two - The Greek and Christian Traditions


Chapter Three - Hobbes's Challenge to the Traditions


Chapter Four - Dutch Commerce and National Power


Chapter Five - Capitalism and Toleration - Voltaire


Chapter Six - Abundance or Equality - Voltaire vs. Rousseau


Chapter Seven - Seeing the Invisible hand - Adam Smith


Chapter Eight - Smith on Merchants, Politicians, Workers


Chapter Nine - Smith on the Problems of Commercial Society


Chapter Ten - Smith on Moral and Immoral Capitalism


Chapter Eleven - Conservatism and Advanced Capitalism - Burke


Chapter Twelve - Conservatism and Periphery Capitalism - Moser


Chapter Thirteen - Hegel on Capitalism and Individuality


Chapter Fourteen - Hamilton, List and the Case for Protection


Chapter Fifteen - De Tocqueville on Capitalism in America


Chapter Sixteen - Marx and Engles - The Communist Manifesto


Chapter Seventeen - Marx's Capital and the Degradation of Work


Chapter Eighteen - Mathew Arnold on Capitalism and Culture


Chapter Nineteen - Individual and Community - Tonnies vs. Simmel


Chapter Twenty - The German Debate over Rationalization


Chapter Twenty One - Cultural Sources of Capitalism - Max Weber


Chapter Twenty Two - Schumpeter on Innovation and Resentment


Chapter Twenty Three - Lenin's Critique - Imperialism and War


Chapter Twenty Four - Fascists on Capitalism - Freyer and Schmitt


Chapter Twenty Five - Mises and Hayek on Irrational Socialism


Chapter Twenty Six - Schumpeter on Capitalism's Self- destruction


Chapter Twenty Seven - The Rise of Welfare-Sate Capitalism


Chapter Twenty Eight - Pluralism and Limit to Social Justice - Hayek


Chapter Twenty Nine- Herbert Marcuse and the New Left Critique


Chapter Thirty - Contradictions of Postindustrial Society


Chapter Thirty One - The Family under Capitalism


Chapter Thirty Two - Tensions with Democracy - Buchanan and Olson


Chapter Thirty Three - End of Communism, new Era of Globalization


Chapter Thirty Four - Capitalism and Nationalism - Ernest Gelilner


Chapter Thirty Five - The Varieties of Capitalism


Chapter Thirty Six - Intrinsic Tensions in Capitalism


Return to Xenophon.