The Ethics of Capitalism

Subject PHIL20044 (2016)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2016.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 2 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2016:

Semester 1, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 29-Feb-2016 to 29-May-2016
Assessment Period End 24-Jun-2016
Last date to Self-Enrol 11-Mar-2016
Census Date 31-Mar-2016
Last date to Withdraw without fail 06-May-2016

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 35 hours - 2 x 60 minute lectures each week and 1 x 60 minute tutorial in weeks 2-12
Total Time Commitment:

170 hours

Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge:

One of the following subjects is recommended but not required:

Study Period Commencement:
Credit Points:
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support:


Dr Daniel Halliday



Subject Overview:

Capitalism is now the dominant way of organizing economic production and other aspects of social life in most countries. But there are many who feel that capitalism is morally troubling, or even evil. This subject aims to develop a moral evaluation of capitalism in its various forms, and to address specific moral concerns about it. Possible questions include: In what way is capitalism related to such things as exploitation, overconsumption, and excessive competition? Are these inevitable problems or can they be addressed through regulation? What sort of limits should be placed on individual property rights, the activities of corporations, and flows of inherited wealth? Should some services never be privatized? This subject will address these questions with the help of classic and contemporary readings in the egalitarian, utilitarian, and classical liberal traditions.

Learning Outcomes:

Students who successfully complete this subject will:

  • Gain a familiarity with a variety of core texts in political philosophy relevant to the moral foundations of capitalism, and be able to both interpret and evaluate their main arguments.
  • Be able to understand a number of concepts that arise in moral arguments about capitalism, including exploitation, freedom, competition, ownership, and equality.
  • Learn how to defend, and not just coherently state, one’s own position with regard to controversial questions in political philosophy.
  • Gain an understanding of how topics in political philosophy overlap with the subject matter of other disciplines, especially economics.
  • Work individually, and in groups, to clarify problems, apply reasoning techniques to different issues, and to critically evaluate the results.
  • A 2000 word essay due mid-semester (50%)
  • A 2000 word essay due during the end of semester examination period (50%).

Hurdle Requirements:

  • Students must attend a minimum of 75% of tutorials in order to pass this subject.
  • All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.

Note: Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 10% per day. After five working days late assessment will not be marked. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked.

Prescribed Texts:

The following texts will be available from the University bookshop:

John Stuart Mill: Principles of Political Economy

Adam Smith: The Wealth of Nations

Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Links to further information:
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Graduate Certificate in Arts - Philosophy
Graduate Diploma in Arts - Philosophy
Philosophy Major

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