Fall 2022 - HIST 135 D100

Capitalism and the Making of the Modern World (3)

Class Number: 4526

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We, Fr 9:30 AM – 10:20 AM
    WMC 2220, Burnaby



An introductory survey of the dynamic history of capitalism. Breadth-Humanities/Social Sciences.


Squid Games

Squid Game image used under Fair Dealing

In 2021, Tesla founder Elon Musk offered to donate 2% of his wealth to the United Nations World Food Program to save 42 million people who faced imminent starvation. His only condition was a plan from the WFP for spending the money. The WFP provided him with a detailed plan within two weeks. Instead of delivering the promised money, Musk decided to spend $45 billion to purchase Twitter.

Modern capitalism has created wealth and technology on a scale never seen before, but the world still faces terrible poverty, exploitation, and environmental disaster. Even in wealthy nations, many face uncertainty in a time of inflation, plague, and unemployment. Despite tremendous increases in productivity that promised to deliver prosperity and ease, many of us work longer hours than medieval peasants. As Homer Simpson put it more than 30 years ago, “Maybe Lisa's right about America being a land of opportunity, and maybe Adil has a point about the machinery of capitalism being oiled with the blood of the workers.”

How should we think of this way of organizing the production and distribution of goods and services? Where did it come from? Where might it be going?

These are the questions we’ll explore in our course. We’ll challenge the conventions and beliefs we’ve been served to help us think about the past to understand the present and to consider making new futures.

Pyramid of Capitalist System

The Pyramid of Capitalist System is a common name of a 1911 American cartoon caricature critical of capitalism, copied from a Russian flyer of c. 1901. The graphic focus is on social stratification by social class and economic inequality.

The Four horsemen

The four horsemen of the apocalypse are four biblical figures who appear in the Book of Revelation. They are revealed by the unsealing of the first four of the seven seals. Each of the horsemen represents a different facet of the apocalypse: conquest, war, famine, and death.


  • Short writing assignments 90%
  • Tutorial Attendance/Participation 10%


There are no exams or large papers in this course. Instead, there are short (2-4 pages) assignments based on the lectures and readings. Three of these short assignments are fixed in the schedule, and each student will need to write for those weeks; besides those 3, you’ll choose 5 additional ones to do over the semester. Attendance and participation in tutorials will also count toward the final grade. The aim is to have you express your ideas and reactions by offering different ideas and interpretations for you to consider. The course counts towards SFU’s writing, or W, requirements, but it is not a course in “how to write.” Instead, we're using writing as a way for you to develop your ideas and voice in the context of thinking historically about capitalism.



All the readings for the course will be available on Canvas. The assignments do not require additional research.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website 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