Spring 2016 - SA 302W D100

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

Class Number: 1994

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 5 – Apr 11, 2016: Mon, 1:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Maureen Kihika



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.


While capitalism is generally attributed to global problems such as world hunger, poverty, environmental degradation, disease, social inequality and oppression, little is understood of how capitalist culture critically contributes to these, or the interplay between local and global problems. Globalizing capitalism has led to what some call a ‘global intercultural interplay’ indicating connections between local and global problems, many of which are considered to be intensifying particularly in the wake of the recent capitalist crisis of the global financial meltdown. Using critical readings of course material, media pieces, documentary films, guest lectures and critically engaged reflections, this course encourages students to explore the emergence and expansion of capitalist culture and interrogate the role of capitalism in contributing to and perpetuating local and global problems. We will ask the following questions: What is capitalism and in what ways does capitalist culture contribute to local and global problems such as poverty, hunger, disease, climate change, social inequality and oppression? What is the relationship between capitalism and globalization? What are the characteristics of a globalized capitalist culture? In what ways do societies perceive and respond to such problems? Are there alternatives to the capitalist global economic paradigm and what (and how) are the viable solutions envisioned?

First, we will begin by developing foundational theoretical and conceptual basis with which we will explore and problematize global capitalist culture in the latter parts of the course. We will answer the following questions: What is the culture of capitalism and its supporting ideology? How and why did capitalism develop and what sustains the durability of this economic system? What is globalization and what are the characteristics of a globalized capitalist culture? What maintains this phenomenon despite resistance movements against imperialism? Second, we will explore the impacts of globalizing capitalism and consider how capitalist culture contributes and perpetuates to the intensification of global problems. Although the course will focus on global problems, attention will also be paid to the impacts of capitalism at local and regional levels. Here, we will reflect on the following: in what ways are global problems experienced locally? We will ask, what is the transformative power of capitalism on poverty, the environment, Indigenous people and marginalized communities? Last but not least, this course propels us to consider the emergence and potential of local and global resistance movements, as trigger responses to addressing capitalist transformations and in so doing, will ponder the question: what is the best means of coping with global capitalism? This course has a lecture/seminar format.


  • Critical Documentary Reviews (*3) 15%
  • Participation & Attendance 10%
  • Group Presentation 15%
  • Mid Term Exam 15%
  • Project Proposal 15%
  • Final Paper Project 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 an 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 &

Additional material available on library reserve and through Canvas.

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