Spring 2018 - SA 302W D100

Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism (SA) (4)

Class Number: 1080

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Fr 1:30 PM – 5:20 PM
    SECB 1010, Burnaby

  • Instructor:

    Ataman Avdan
    Office Hours: Friday, 12:00-13:00 or by appointment



An introduction to the political economy and culture of capitalism in relation to global problems. Case studies may focus on issues of population, famine, disease, poverty, environmental destruction, social inequality, and nation-state violence. Resistance, rebellion and social movements in response to these problems also will be addressed. Students who took SA 294 in 03-1, 04-1 and 04-2 may not take SA 302 for further credit. Writing/Breadth-Social Sci.


“Our thesis is that the idea of a self-adjusting market implied a stark utopia. Such an institution could not exist for any length of time without annihilating the human and natural substance of society; it would have physically destroyed man [sic] and transformed his [sic] surroundings into a wilderness. Inevitably, society took measures to protect itself, but whatever measures it took impaired the self-regulation of the market, disorganized industrial life, and thus endangered society in yet another way. It was this dilemma which forced the development of the market system into a definite groove and finally disrupted the social organization based upon it.” 
                                                                                                                                                                                              --Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation (1944)

In this course, we will explore global problems in relation to the culture of capitalism. We will focus on how capitalism has been developed over centuries, the social, economic, political and ecological contradictions of capitalism, the distinctive social/cultural life that have emerged simultaneously with its development, and its destructive impacts on us and our planet. We will also discuss the ways to challenge capitalism, and the courses of action to solve or overcome global problems. At the end of this course, you will have a thorough understanding of the major global issues and expand your perspective on the culture of capitalism that shapes our world(s), institutions, relationships, and daily practices. This is a writing intensive course. We will use writing as a way of learning and appreciating course content. A central element of this course is to help you develop strong analytical writing skills. Lectures, discussions, group work, extensive feedback on writing assignments along with excerpts from cinema and documentaries will facilitate your learning.

In the first part of this course, we will develop a foundational theoretical basis to understand capitalism, its culture and contradictions, and we will look at the historical context within which the “capitalist world-economy” emerged. In the second part, we will explore the impacts of global capitalism and discuss how the culture of capitalism creates, exacerbates and deepens global problems we face today. We will focus on population growth, migration, urbanization, hunger, poverty, economic development, underdevelopment, global environmental change, global health issues, and Indigenous struggles. As Karl Marx wrote in 1845, “[p]hilosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” We will conclude with a discussion on the possibility of a different world and a different culture.


  • Two film/documentary reviews (2 x 10%) 20%
  • Mid-term exam 20%
  • Presentation 10%
  • Participation 10%
  • Research paper proposal 10%
  • Research paper 30%


Where a final exam is scheduled and you do not write the exam or withdraw from the course before the deadline date, you will be assigned a N grade. Unless otherwise specified on the course outline, all other graded assignments in this course must be completed for a final grade other than N to be assigned.

Academic Dishonesty and Misconduct Policy
The Department of Sociology and Anthropology follows SFU policy in relation to grading practices, grade appeals (Policy T 20.01) and academic dishonesty and misconduct procedures (S10.01‐ S10.04). Unless otherwise informed by your instructor in writing, in graded written assignments you must cite the sources you rely on and include a bibliography/list of references, following an instructor-approved citation style. It is the responsibility of students to inform themselves of the content of SFU policies available on the SFU website: http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student.html.



Robbins, Richard. (2014). Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism (6th Ed.), Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
ISBN: 978-0205917655

Additional required readings are available through Canvas, the SFU Library, or online.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html