Fall 2021 - SA 302W D100

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

Class Number: 5350

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 8 – Dec 7, 2021: Mon, 9:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Amanda Watson
    Office: AQ 5073
    Office Hours: Th 14:00-16:00



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. Writing/Breadth-Social Sci.


What is capitalist culture? This course aims to explore a series of intersecting global problems produced and maintained by capitalist modes of production and related values and feelings. This course asks a series of questions: How are different social groups imbricated in the global culture of capitalism? Where are global problems produced and where and by whom are they most acutely felt? How, in the midst of interlocking global crises, is capitalist culture being enforced and resisted? To respond to these questions, we will examine how various theoretical perspectives have conceptualized capitalism and its social implications. Topics include: colonial violence, marginal workers, consumer culture, corporate charity, the global care chain, migration, environmental crisis, and Western labour movements.


It is my aim that in completing this course, students will be comfortable:

  • Explaining concrete global problems in terms of their general and abstract connections to capitalist processes and intersectional theories of political economy;
  • Analyzing a current affairs moment or event in terms of its framing, implied values, and stakes for particular groups;
  • Critiquing movements or campaigns that appear to advocate ethical consumption or social justice aims and generate good feelings;
  • Summarizing and distinguishing capitalism as an economic system and a cultural value system; and
  • Writing clearly and with feeling about the relationship between global problems (e.g. responses to COVID-19 like vaccine nationalism, anti-mask conspiracies, unequal access to paid sick days) and capitalist culture.


  • Reflective essay 1 8%
  • Weekly responses (4 x 8%) 32%
  • Course project:
  • - Essay proposal 15%
  • - Case description 15%
  • - Intro paragraphs + case description + detailed first draft outline w/ peer review 15%
  • - Intro paragraphs + case description + detailed final draft outline 15%


Grading: Where a final exam is scheduled and the student does not write the exam or withdraw from the course before the deadline date, an N grade will be assigned. Unless otherwise specified on the course syllabus, all graded assignments for this course must be completed for a final grade other than N to be assigned. An N is considered as an F for the purposes of scholastic standing.

Grading System: The Undergraduate Course Grading System is as follows:

A+ (95-100) | A (90-94) | A- (85-89) | B+ (80-84) | B (75-79) | B- (70-74) | C+ (65-69) | C (60-64) | C- (55-59) | D (50-54) | F (0-49) | N*
*N standing to indicate the student did not complete course requirements

Academic Dishonesty and Misconduct Policy: The Department of Sociology & 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.

Centre for Accessible Learning: Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need classroom or exam accommodations are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (1250 Maggie Benston Centre) as soon as possible to ensure that they are eligible and that approved accommodations and services are implemented in a timely fashion.



  • Acccess to a computer and/or other electronic device that will allow you to write and upload assignments in Canvas and do some interactive online activities in the Canvas shell, including posting video and streaming video and audio
  • Access to an internet connection
  • Microsoft Word for all assignment submissions (available to all students for free here)


Robbins, R. H. and Dowty, R. A. (2019). Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, 7th Edition. New York: Pearson.

Print ISBN: 978-0-134732794
VitalSource ebook ISBN: 978-0-134737751

This is, unfortunately, an expensive book to purchase. There is a digital copy available for purchase, which is slightly less costly. You can also find some copies at the Library. The 2019 (seventh) edition includes a new co-author and several heavily revised chapters, so it is important to find this edition. There are many used copies floating around. It is a useful text with relevant information, even for future papers you might write.

Additional required readings will be available through Canvas, the SFU Library, or online as noted.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/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


Teaching at SFU in fall 2021 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with approximately 70 to 80 per cent of classes in person/on campus, with safety plans in place.  Whether your course will be in-person or through remote methods will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the fall 2021 term.