Skip to main content
HomeWhat is Capitalism?

What is Capitalism? Discussion Group

Since 2020, the What is Capitalism? discussion group has convened online several times a semester to discuss interdisciplinary perspectives on capitalism, its legal and social underpinnings, and its changes over time and place. We have explored the ideologies and institutions of property, finance, accounting, labor, organized business, trade, digital technology, development and more in relation to dynamics of power, including race, gender, class, and empire. We examine the politics of law as well as law's role in constituting power. Please visit our Upcoming Events page for more information on future discussions.

Discussion #30, March 1, 2024 

Ramsi Woodcock, Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs Associate Professor of Law, Secondary Appointment, Gatton College of Business & Economics University of Kentucky, led a discussion on his article, " A Progressive Critique of the Law and Political Economy Movement" (rescheduled from January 12, 2023)

Discussion #29, December 1, 2023

Jessica A. Shoemaker, Steinhart Foundation Distinguished Professor of Law at Nebraska College of Law, led a discussion of her article, “Re-Placing Property,” University of Chicago Law Review 91 (forthcoming 2024).


Discussion #28, November 3, 2023

Paige Carmichael, PhD student in Economics at UMass Amherst, led a discussion of disability, work, and capitalism.  

Discussion #27, September 29, 2023

Scott Carter, Professor of Economics at the University of Tulsa, led a discussion of his work on Sraffa.

Discussion #26, June 30, 2023

Andrea Leiter, Faculty of Law, University of Amsterdam led a discussion of her book, Making the World Safe for Investment: The Protection of Foreign Property 1922-1959 (Cambridge University Press, 2023).  

Discussion #25, June 23, 2023

Sanjay Reddy, Professor of Economics at the New School, led a discussion of his article, “Beyond Property or Beyond Piketty?,”British Journal of Sociology, 72, 1 (January 2021), 8-25.

Discussion #24, May 5, 2023

Reshard Kolabhai, Lecturere at North-West University, South Africa led a discussion of his work-in-progress, “Law in Movement: Constitutional Law, Indigenous Customs, and Capitalism in South Africa.”

Discussion #23, March 3, 2023

Branden Adams, Lecturer in History at University of California Santa Barbara, led a discussion of his work-in-progress, “Coal and Capitalism: From Railroads and Miners’ Unions to Senator Manchin’s Climate Politics.”

Discussion #22, February 10, 2023

Jamee Moudud, Professor of Economics at Sarah Lawrence College, led a discussion of Kai Koddenbrock, Ingrid Harvold Kvangraven, and Ndongo Samba Sylla, “Beyond Financialisation: The Longue Durée of Finance and Production in the Global South,” Cambridge Journal of Economics 46 (2002), 703-733.

Discussion #21, January 13, 2023

Amna Akbar, Professor of Law at Ohio State University, led a discussion on her working paper rethinking law’s emancipatory potential in the context of racial capitalism.  

Discussion #20, November 18, 2022

Carol Heim, Professor Emerita of Economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, led a discussion of a chapter from Stuart Banner, How the Indians Lost Their Land: Law and Power on the Frontier (Harvard University Press, 2005), with a focus on Chapter 2, "Manhattan for Twenty-Four Dollars," pp. 49-84.

Discussion #19, April 1, 2022

Sebastian Berger, Senior Lecturer of Economics at the University of the West of England, led a discussion of his co-authored paper (with Jacques Richard) on the impact of accounting approaches used at firms and national levels bear on social and ecological crises facing the world today. 

Discussion #18, March 25, 2022

Diana Reddy, doctoral candidate in UC Berkeley's Jurisprudence and Social Policy program, led a discussion of her paper, “The Twenty-First Century Legitimacy of Labor Unions: After the Law of Apolitical Economy.”

Discussion #17, March 4, 2022

Faisal Chaudhry, Assistant Professor of Law and History, University of Dayton led a discussion on property as rent centered his recent paper examining mortgage securitization and ideas about property. 

Discussion #16, November 19, 2021

Daniel J.H. Greenwood, Professor of Law at Hofstra University, led a discussion of his article, “Introduction to the Metaphors of Corporate Law,” 4 Seattle Journal for Social Justice 273 (2005).

Discussion #15, November 5, 2021

Margaret Levenstein, Director of the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), and Research Professor at the University of Michigan, discussed her article “Escape from Equilibrium: Thinking Historically About Firm Responses to Competition,” Enterprise and Society, vol. 13, no. 4 (Dec. 2012), pp. 710-728. 

Discussion #14, September 10, 2021

Michael C. Duff, Winston S. Howard Distinguished Professor at University of Wyoming Law, led a discussion of his draft article about workplace injury and illness, worker’s constitutional rights to protection, and what this shows about the legal underpinnings of capitalism. 

Discussion #13, August 20, 2021

Sarah Haan, Professor at the Washington and Lee University School of Law, led a discussion of her article, “Corporate Governance and the Feminization of Capital,” forthcoming in the Stanford Law Review. 

Discussion #12, June 25, 2021

Kim Christensen, Professor of Economics at Sarah Lawrence College, and Martha McCluskey, Professor Emerita at University at Buffalo Law School, led a discussion of about the property rights movement. Readings focused on the U.S. Supreme Court case, Cedar Point Nursery vs. Hassid.

Discussion #11, May 21, 2021

Ruth Dukes, Professor of Labour Law at the University of Glasgow, led a discussion of her paper “The Economic Sociology of Labour Law,” Journal of Law and Society, 2019. 

Discussion #10, April 23, 2021

Jamee Moudud, Professor of Economics at Sarah Lawrence College, led a discussion of his paper on how racial capitalism was built into the legal and political design of central banking and taxation in the British Empire.

Discussion #9, March 26, 2021

Dr. Maha Rafi Atal, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Copenhagen Business School, facilitated a discussion of how the historically changing relationship between the corporation, state and society sheds light on capitalism.

Discussion #8, February 26, 2021

Marilyn Power, Professor Emerita of Economics at Sarah Lawrence College, led a discussion on feminist insights into the law and political economy of capitalism.

Discussion #7, January 29, 2021

Dr. Dimitri Van Den Meerssche (PhD EUI, LL.M. NYU), an associate fellow at the Asser Institute and a postdoctoral research fellow at Edinburgh Law School, led a discussion of Julie E. Cohen, Between Truth and Power: The Legal Constructions of Informational Capitalism (Oxford Univ. Press 2019), chapter 2, “The Biopolitical Public Domain.”

Discussion #6, December 18, 2020

Jamee Moudud, Professor of Economics at Sarah Lawrence College, led a discussion of two short readings on W.E.B. Dubois’s important contributions to institutional economics and political economy.

Discussion #5, November 20, 2020

Carol E. Heim, Professor Emerita of Economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, led a discussion of Jonathan Levy, "Accounting for Profit and the History of Capital," Critical Historical Studies, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Fall 2014), 171-214 and Carol E. Heim, "Capitalism," in Dictionary of American History, 3rd ed., vol. 2, Cabeza to Demography, ed. Stanley I. Kutler (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2003), pp. 41-47. 

Discussion #4,October 23, 2020

Eric Scorsone, Director, and Sarah S. Klammer, Academic Specialist, both of the MSUE Center for Local Government Finance and Policy at Michigan State University, led a discussion about the work of John Commons, an early twentieth-century expert in law and economics from an institutionalist perspective.

Discussion #3, September 25, 2020
Eric Scorsone, Director of the MSUE Center for Local Government Finance and Policy at Michigan State University, led a discussion of Keynesian theory and policy centered around three readings: Joan Robinson, "What has become of the Keynesian Revolution?," Challenge (Jan./Feb. 1974), Warren Samuels, "In Praise of Joan Robinson:  Economics as Social Control," Society (Jan./Feb. 1989), and Warren Samuels, "Some Fundamentals of the Economic Role of Government," Journal of Economic Issues 23 (1989),  427-433.

Discussion #2, August 27, 2020

Discussion focused on two short essays by economist Joan Robinson, “Latter-Day Capitalism,” New Left Review, July/August 1962, and “The Final End of Laissez-Faire,” New Left Review, July/August 1964. 

Discussion #1, July 31, 2020

Jamee Moudud, Professor of Economics at Sarah Lawrence College (with research assistance from Nikos Efstratudakis), led a discussion of Robert L. Heilbroner, The Nature and Logic of Capitalism (1985) (excerpts) and Robert L. Hale, “Coercion and Distribution in a Supposedly Non-Coercive State,” Political Science Quarterly 38 (1923), 470-94.