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Capitalism: A six-part series
Episode 1: Adam Smith, The Birth of the Free Market
By Ilan Ziv
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"The magical circle of investment and conquest... begins with the discovery of the Americas. This is the engine of two wheels: the wheel of scientific discoveries and the wheel of capitalist economy. Credit, investment, profits. More credit, more investment, more profits."Historian Yuval Noah Harari

How did capitalism develop? For centuries, the standard formulation - laid out by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations and repeated uncritically ever since - has gone like this: humans used to trade and barter, but as society became increasingly complex, barter became harder to manage and money developed.

The trouble is that - like the story of Columbus discovering America - everything about this classical formulation is wrong.

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This episode explores the origins of capitalism, arguing that it is inextricably linked to colonialism, the rise of science, and the slave trade. Capitalism preceded Smith by centuries - the plantations of the West Indies were purely capitalist enterprises, as were the privately-funded expeditions that colonized much of the world. Like today's startups, these ventures offered high risk but huge rewards to those that succeeded.

On a journey covering four continents and nearly a millennium, we discover the flourishing free market of 12th-century China, learn how the economics of indigenous societies differed vastly from their portrayal by Smith, and come to understand how the European "discovery" of America fuelled a scientific boom that was integral to colonization and economic exploitation - creating a global capitalist boom that was felt from the streets of China, to the slave castles of West Africa, the markets of Spain and the pastures of England.

Featuring historian and Smith biographer Nicholas Phillipson, economist Kari Polanyi Levitt, historian Yuval Noah Harari, and others. View the complete list of storytellers.

  

53 minutes / color
Closed Captioned
Release: 2015
Copyright: 2014
Sale: $498

The CAPITALISM series consists of six (6) episodes on three (3) DVDs that are packaged and sold together as one unit.

Subject areas:
Business, Business Ethics, Business and Economics, Economics, Economic Sociology, Europe (West), Globalization, Historiography, History (World), Labor Studies, Philosophy, Political Science, Political Theory, Politics, Sociology

Related Links:
The Storytellers of Capitalism
The Films of Ilan Ziv


Capitalism / Episode 1 / Clip

Related Titles:
Capitalism: An ambitious but accessible six-part series that looks at both the history of ideas and the social forces that have shaped the capitalist world.

Episode 2: Adam Smith was both economist and moral philosopher. But his work on morality is largely forgotten, leading to tragic distortions that have shaped our global economic system.

Episode 3: The roots of today's global trade agreements lie in the work of stockbroker David Ricardo and demographer Thomas Malthus. Together, they would restructure society in the image of the market.

Episode 4: Have we gotten Marx wrong by focusing on the Communist Manifesto instead of on his critique of how capitalism works - a critique that is relevant and as penetrating as ever?

Episode 5: The ideological divide between the philosophies of John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek has dominated economics for nearly a century. Is it time for the pendulum to swing back to Keynes? Or do we need a whole new approach that goes beyond this dualism?

Episode 6: An exploration of the life and work of Karl Polanyi, who sought to reintegrate society and economy. Could the commodification of labour and money ultimately be as disastrous as floods, drought and earthquakes?

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Last Updated September 25, 2015
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