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Capitalism, State and Market (SO9B3)

This MA module ‘Capitalism, State and Market’ uses a range of theoretical resources to think analytically and critically about capitalism and its recurrent crises. You'll look at the recent financial crisis and the role it has played in the reconfiguration of structural relations between the market and the state. Drawing on Michel Foucault's lectures on biopolitics, the module will consider the different types of governmentality that underpin these changing relations: from classical liberal forms to new ‘neo-’ liberal ones.

The module will centre on this question of neoliberalism and will play close historical attention to political-economic discourses which argue for the sovereignty of markets and economics over all things 'social'. Social sciences, and Sociology in particular, has tended to dismiss neoliberal ideas without seriously engaging with them. This is not something that will be done on this module, which instead will pursue a critical reading of the neoliberal canon, while at the same time exploring some of the unexpected sociological influences upon the neoliberal project.

The module explores the limits of these types of arguments and questions the involvement of social science, and sociology in particular, in the emergence of pro-market, neoliberal thinking. It will look closely at the concept of neoliberalism and will ask whether it is best defined as a political rationality or a form of ideology? We will also ask what has become of ‘the social’ and whether there is anything now sacred from the logic of the market, (including core values such as ‘democracy’). Should everything be financialized and stamped with a price or are there real limits to markets and to its associated principles of competition? A related question concerns the politics of neoliberalism. What has happened to the political Left in the face of the recent crisis, and how might it provide a genuine alternative to the Right’s ‘theology of the market’?


Module Director:

Charles Turner


This module is worth 20 CATS.