Capitalism: Success, Crisis, and Reform

Course Dates: Open-ended
Enrollment Dates: Enroll Anytime
Who can Enroll: Anyone
Course Language: English
Price: FREE

About the Course

In this course, we will seek to interpret capitalism using ideas from biological evolution: firms pursuing varied strategies and facing extinction when those strategies fail are analogous to organisms struggling for survival in nature. For this reason, it is less concerned with ultimate judgment of capitalism than with the ways it can be shaped to fit our more specific objectives–for the natural environment, public health, alleviation of poverty, and development of human potential in every child. Each book we read will be explicitly or implicitly an argument about good and bad consequences of capitalism.


Adiga, Aravind. The White Tiger. Harper Collins India, 2008.

Buckley, Christopher. Thank You for Smoking. Random House, 1994. (optional text)

Chandler, Alfred D. The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business. Belknap Press, 1977.

Clark, Gregory. Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World. Princeton University Press, 2007.

Collier, Paul. The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It. Oxford University Press, 2007.

De Soto, Hernando. The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else. Basic Books, 2000.

Hayek, Friedrich. The Constitution of Liberty. University of Chicago Press, 1960.

Marx, Karl and Frederick Engels. Manifesto of the Communist Party (The Communist Manifesto). orig. pub. 1848.

Posner, Richard A. A Failure of Capitalism: The Crisis of ’08 and the Descent into Depression. Harvard University Press, 2009.

Schumpeter, Joseph. Capitalism, Socialism, & Democracy. orig. pub. 1942.

Smith, Adam. Wealth of Nations, orig. pub. 1776.

Selected case studies from Harvard Business School and Yale School of Management

About the Professor

Douglas W. Rae is the Richard Ely Professor of Management and Professor of Political Science at Yale University since 1967. He served as chief administrative officer of the City of New Haven in 1990 and 1991. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a former Guggenheim Fellow, Professor Rae has been a consultant for the Parliament of Spain, the Italian Christian Democratic Party, and the BBC. He has served as president of Leeway, Inc., a nonprofit corporation serving AIDS patients. His latest book, City: Urbanism and Its End, was published in the fall of 2003.

License Information

Douglas W. Rae, PLSC 270: Capitalism: Success, Crisis, and Reform (Yale University: Open Yale Courses), (Accessed March 13, 2015). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

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As one of the world’s great universities, Yale traces its roots back to the early 1640s when colonial clergyman sought to establish a school in order to continue the tradition of European education within the Americas. Yale has now grown to educate over 11,000 students from over 100 countries on [...]

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