Summer 2021 - SA 302W D100

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

Class Number: 1939

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    May 12 – Jun 21, 2021: Tue, Thu, 8:30–11:20 a.m.

  • Instructor:

    Amanda Watson
    Office Hours: Th 13:30 via Zoom



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.


In completing this course, students should 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
  • 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 8%
  • Weekly responses (4 x 8%) 32%
  • Essay proposal 15%
  • Case description 15%
  • Intro Paragraphs to Research Essay + Case Description + Detailed Outline FIRST DRAFT with Peer Review 15%
  • Intro Paragraphs to Research Essay + Case Description + Detailed Outline SECOND/FINAL DRAFT 15%
  • Note: The assessment for this course is subject to change slightly by the start of the course.


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.



Required Supplies:

  • Access to a computer and/or other electronic device that will allow you to write and upload assignments in Canvas and virtually attend your classes remotely through Blackboard Collaborate and/or Zoom
  • Access to an internet connection
  • Microsoft Word for all assignment submissions (available to all students for free)

Please see SFU Bookstore website for information on textbook purchase options.


Robbins, Richard H. and Rachel A. Dowty. 2019. Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, 7th ed. New York: Pearson.
ISBN: 978-0-134732794

Additional required material available through Canvas.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site 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.


Teaching at SFU in summer 2021 will be conducted primarily through remote methods, but we will continue to have in-person experiential activities for a selection of courses.  Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges 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. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning ( or 778-782-3112).