Fall 2016: Iah 231b – Another World is Possible. Visions of a Post-Capitalist Society

General information


Here is more information about Prof. Lotz

Class Meetings

Days: M/W
Time: 12:40 PM – 2:30 PM
Place: 117 Berkey


Hours: tbd
Phone: 517.355.4490 [dept.])
Place: 518 S. Kedzie Hall

Other Contact

E-mail: lotz@msu.edu
Home Phone: please ask
Webpage: https://christianlotz.wordpress.com


You will find my box in the front office of the philosophy department


Introduction: Acceleration, Capital, Globalization

Aug 31,
No class [cancelled because of sickness]

Sep 5,
Holiday – university closed

Sep 7, General Introduction
Read Why Young Americans Are Giving Up on Capitalism
Study the first theory of globalization and capitalism in Marx/Engels, The Communist Manifesto, section I+II [online here]

Capitalism as a System (Robbins)

Sep 12, Capitalism as Culture, Production of Needs
Robbins, Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, 12-34 (D2L)
(available on D2L)

Sep 14, Society as Black Box, Capital, Money, Debt
Robbins, Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, 1-11 (D2L)
Voluntary: read or listen to the dialogue between Varoufakis and Chomsky here

Sep 19, Society as Black Box, Capital, Money, Debt
Robbins, Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, 12-34 (D2L)
Robbins, Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, 1-11 (D2L)

Neoliberalism (Mason)

Sep 21, Why Neoliberalism is Broken
Mason, Postcapitalism, introduction+chapter 1+2
Voluntary: listen to Mason here

Sep 26, Why Neoliberalism is Broken
Mason, Postcapitalism, chapter 3+4
Voluntary: listen to Mason here

Globalization and the Culture of Capitalism (Robbins)

Sep 28, Labor
Robbins, Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, 35-56 (D2L)

Oct 3, Labor
Robbins, Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, 35-56 (D2L)

Oct. 5,  State
Robbins, Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, 99-125 (D2L)

Oct. 10, Market Externalities, Poverty
Robbins, Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, 127-132 (D2L)
Robbins, Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, 168-196 (D2L)

Oct 12, Poverty
Robbins, Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, 168-196 (D2L)

Oct 17,  Environment and Consumption
Robbins, Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, 197-219 (D2L)

Oct 19,
no class
Homework assignment sent out via email!

Oct 24, Environment and Consumption
Robbins, Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, 197-219 (D2L)

Democratic Socialism (Wright)

Oct 26,  Introduction
Wright, chapter 3
(which is sort of a summary of claims that we have discussed so far in class)

Oct 31,  The socialist compass
Wright, chapter 5

Nov 2,  Social empowerment and the state
Wright, chapter 6

Nov 7,  Social empowerment and the economy
Wright, chapter 7

Economic Democracy (Schweickart)

Nov 9,
no class
Homework assignment sent out via email!

Nov 14, Trump
Discussion of the election result

Nov 16, Economic democracy: what it is
Schweickart, chapter 3

Nov 21, Capitalism or socialism
Schweickart, chapter 4

Nov 23, no class
Film-assignment sent out via email on Nov 21

Nov 28, Capitalism or socialism
Schweickart, chapter 5

Post-Capitalism: A Guide to Our Future (Mason)

Nov 30, The prophets of Postcapitalism
Mason, chapter 5

Dec. 5, Towards the free machine
Mason, chapter 6

Dec 7, Beautiful troublemakers
Mason, chapter 7

Final Exam

Dec 15
Final take-home exam due by 3pm (day of final exam), submission via Dropbox

Course Description

“Capitalism does not need future, except as burning fuel”
(Heiner Müller)

In this class, we will critically explore our social environment by critically investigating the nature of capitalism, capitalistic culture, and its global consequences. We will first discuss general problems and issues of a process of globalization driven by capitalism; we will then deal with a fundamental reconstruction of what globalization is from a Marxist point of view. In a second part, we will discuss paths toward and ideas about a post-capitalist future. Basic concepts that are not very well discussed in the US public, such as socialism, will be clarified. The challenging texts selected for this class will be accompanied by several high quality documentary films and paper assignments related to these films. Be aware that this class will be challenging, especially if you think that reading and self-responsible studying are things of the past, if you tend to make quick judgments, if fox news or msnbc are your primary news sources, or if you tend to confuse university education with professional education.

IAH Course Goals

Integrative Studies in the Arts and Humanities at MSU seeks to assist students to become more familiar with ways of knowing in the arts and humanities and to be more knowledgeable and capable in a range of intellectual and expressive abilities. IAH courses encourage students to engage critically with their own society, history, and culture(s); they also encourage students to learn more about the history and culture of other societies. They focus on key ideas and issues in human experience; encourage appreciation of the roles of knowledge and values in shaping and understanding human behavior; emphasize the responsibilities and opportunities of democratic citizenship; highlight the value of the creative arts of literature, theater, music, and arts; and alert us to important issues that occur among peoples in an increasingly interconnected, interdependent world.

IAH Course Goals Addressed in this Course

  • engage students critically with their own society, history, and culture(s)
  • encourage students to learn more about the history and culture of other societies
  • emphasize the responsibilities and opportunities of democratic citizenship

Specific Course Goals

This lecture class should students introduce to

  • critical analysis of society and our social environment
  • globalization as a process of capital
  • problems that this process produces (poverty, environment, gender, inequality, military, state monopoly, oligarchy)
  • a theoretical outlook on capitalism and globalization, especially on the fundamental role of money
  • the failures of capitalist society
  • the inner contradictions of our social system
  • the idea of a post-capitalist society
  • the idea of an economic democracy
  • the idea of a world with much less labor


Real learning is not properly measured by multiple-choice tests; especially since in the humanities there is no specific content of a sort that may be covered well in standardized examinations, which every student in the humanities should be expected to master. Instead, you will – hopefully – come to recognize that this class is about a general intellectual reflection on our contemporary world that requires concepts and critical reflections. The class deals with your dignity as human beings and with your intellect and reason, which is best expressed in a form of learning that is based on understanding and insight, and not mere learning by heart. It is hoped that the class will stimulate the view that intellectual activity (and therefore human reality) has to do with the passion of thinking, and the passion of understanding of our world. Intense confrontation with texts is the center of this class. Information is important but secondary.

Required Texts (Bookstore)

Please buy the following titles.

  • Mason, Postcapitalism: A Guide to our Future
  • Wright, Envirioning Real Utopias
  • Schweickart, After Capitalism

Excerpts on D2L

  • Robbins, Globalization and the Culture of Capitalism

Course Organization

The course will be organized such that, ideally, each class period will include [i] “interactive” lecture, [ii] discussion time or [iii] response time. Students will be asked to intensively prepare a certain text or part of a text for the next class period.

Course Requirements

  • Daily reading and studying (around 50 pages per week)
  • 5 response sheets
  • final take-home exam
  • short film reaction papers
  • unannounced assignments in class, including reading quizzes


The class and my lectures are solely based on the texts selected for class and require a thorough study and preparation of the material. I will primarily lecture on the readings, which will help you to more fully understand the texts. Therefore it is not sufficient for students to come to class without having prepared the texts. And indeed, in the exams you have to demonstrate whether you have appropriately prepared the readings selected for each lecture.


Every academic misconduct, such as plagiarism, will – without exception – lead to a failing grade in class. Check the Ombudsman’s page (see also note below on plagiarism): https://www.msu.edu/~ombud/

Make-Up Assignments

Students who need to miss the exam or the movie for excusable reasons (medical+MSU related business) must inform me ahead of time, and will be permitted to make up the exam and movie assignment. I will only accept written documentation.

Note on Attendance

I hope and strongly encourage that students attend all lectures. However, I will not require attendance, as I think that college students should manage their own class attendance decisions. I will not call roll. Hence, it is up to you to come to class or not. However, if you do not come to class on a regular basis and participate in class, it is very difficult for you to achieve a good grade in this class, especially since you won’t be able to make up assignments in class. If you choose to attend class, please come on time, turn off cell phones and other electronic devices that interfere with your (and others’) concentration, have the reading prepared and be ready to participate. If you are not prepared, do not bother showing up. It is a sign of disrespect to your peers and the instructor to attend class unprepared. If you miss class, it is your responsibility to obtain class notes from a fellow student and to catch up on reading.

Unannounced Assignments

There will be announced and unannounced reading quizzes, homework-assignments, and group assignments. Students who do not attend class (and have no written documentation) will lose all points. Reading quizzes, homework assignments, and group assignments cannot be made up without reasonable excuses (see above).

Class Response Sheets

Every student is asked to submit up to 5 class response sheets during the semester. Please download the form here (plus: print it out five times and add it to your class folder). Response sheets must be submitted at the end of a class session. I do not accept late turn ins or turn ins by email.

Download response sheet (I will only accept answers that are given on this form)


Students are not allowed to turn in response sheets during the last week of class!

Response Time

Selected response sheets will be addressed at the beginning of each class. This procedure will help you and me to clarify problems, reflect on topics, and to find answers to questions that came up during the lecture.

Film Response Papers

Up to five selected documentary films shown in class will be accompanied by short writing assignments (300-650 words). I will let you know at the end of a “film day” whether it will indeed be accompanied by an assignment. The documentary film selected for this class are all high quality films that will demand your attention and challenge your critical judgment. The assignment will be passed out in class. These assignments cannot be made up, unless you show medical documentation. Accordingly, if you do not come to class on “film days,” then you might lose the points for the assignment. Film assignments will be submitted via D2L dropbox.

Final Assignment

There will be a final take-home essay assignment . It is due on the day of the final exam via D2L dropbox.

General Note

I expect that you come to class having prepared the texts carefully and thoroughly. The reading for the next session, if not clear from the course schedule (below), will be announced at the end of the previous class. “Preparing for class” implies underlining and making excerpts from the text assigned; looking up unfamiliar vocabulary and writing them into a note book (I encourage you to keep a vocabulary booklet for all of your classes). Just reading the text won’t be sufficient. You have to study the material. Some vocabulary might not be sufficiently explained in a regular dictionary (this goes especially for philosophical terms), so it is necessary to consult additional sources, and the MSU Library Website is a great resource for nearly all questions in this regard).

Course Evaluation


1 final take-home exam 20 points
5 film reaction papers (up to 600 words) 30 points
unannounced reading quizzes, homework assignments, and group assignments 25 points
5 response sheets (use form) 25 points
100 points


4.0 (=A) 100 – 93
3.5 92 – 87
3 (=B) 86 – 82
2.5 81 – 77
2 (=C) 76 – 72
1.5 71 – 65
1.0 (=D) 64 – 60
0.0 < 60

GENERIC SYLLABUS (might not be applicable to each class)

Laptop/Cell Phone/Tablet Policy

You are not permitted to use laptops or cell phones in class, unless needed for medical reasons. Flat devices, such as tablets, are permitted  if you have purchased the literature required for class electronically. Please do not text under the table. Cell phones should be removed from tables. Failure to follow this policy will lead to unannounced assignments in class or loss of points (at the digression of the instructor).

Class Attendance

As mentioned above, I do not employ in my classes a class attendance policy. Having said this, you should be aware that class attendance is very important. When engaging in a philosophical and humanistic dialogue it is necessary to be an active and present participant in the ongoing discussion. If you miss class please do not email me asking if you missed anything important. Every class is important. You should get a study buddy for the class; a student in class who will inform you of what you missed. If you miss a class you can come to my office hours or make an appointment to discuss the material, providing you have read the material and you simply want to see if your understanding of the material is on target. Time in office hours will not be used to repeat the class lectures.

Grading Criteria + Paper Writing Tips

Check out this page for grading criteria, example of assignments, etc.

Online Research Sources

Unfortunately, some people think that the internet as such is a reliable source of information. If you decide to use online sources for additional information or your paper then do not just use one of the common internet search engines, such as Google; rather, use reliable academic sources, such as Britannica Online, or the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The Internet Ecyclopedia of Philosophy isn’t very good, but still acceptable. Check out MSU’s library resources! And, as with other sources, you must cite any online sources to which you refer in your essay.

Writing Center Information

MSU’s writing center offers excellent help on all matters regarding writing and learning. Check the website at http://writing.msu.edu for an overview and hours. For more information, please call 517.432.3610 or send an e-mail to writing@msu.edu.

Grief Absence Policy

I follow MSU’s general grief absence policy, which can be found here.

Integrity of Scholarship and Grades (Plagiarism)

The following statement of University policy addresses principles and procedures to be used in instances of academic dishonesty, violations of professional standards, and falsification of academic or admission records, herein after referred to as academic misconduct. [See General Student Regulation 1.00, Protection of Scholarship and Grades.]

Academic Honesty

Article 2.3.3 of the Academic Freedom Report states that “The student shares with the faculty the responsibility for maintaining the integrity of scholarship, grades, and professional standards.” In addition, the (insert name of unit offering course) adheres to the policies on academic honesty as specified in General Student Regulations 1.0, Protection of Scholarship and Grades; the all-University Policy on Integrity of Scholarship and Grades; and Ordinance 17.00, Examinations. (See Spartan Life: Student Handbook and Resource Guide and/or the MSU Web site: www.msu.edu) Therefore, unless authorized by your instructor, you are expected to complete all course assignments, including homework, lab work, quizzes, tests and exams, without assistance from any source. You are expected to develop original work for this course; therefore, you may not submit course work completed for another course to satisfy the requirements for this course. Students who violate MSU rules may receive a penalty grade, including but not limited to a failing grade on the assignment or in the course. Contact your instructor if you are unsure about the appropriateness of your course work. (See also https://www.msu.edu/~ombud/)

Plagiarism, from the Ombudsman’s page

Plagiarism (from the Latin plagiarius, an abductor, and plagiare, to steal) is defined by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on Misconduct in Research (take that!) as “ . . . the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results or words without giving appropriate credit.”

Accidental or Unintentional
One may not even know that they are plagiarizing.  It is the student’s responsibility to make certain that they understand the difference between quoting and paraphrasing, as well as the proper way to cite material.

Here, students are well aware that they are plagiarizing.  Purposefully using someone else’s ideas or work without proper acknowledgment is plagiarism.  This includes turning in borrowed or bought research papers as one’s own.

Turning in the same term paper (or substantially the same paper) for two courses without getting permission from one’s instructor is plagiarism.

The Spartan Code of Honor

Student leaders have recognized the challenging task of discouraging plagiarism from the
academic community. The Associated Students of Michigan State University (ASMSU) is proud to be launching the Spartan Code of Honor academic pledge, focused on valuing academic integrity and honest work ethics at Michigan State University. The pledge reads as follows:

“As a Spartan, I will strive to uphold values of the highest ethical standard. I will practice honesty in my work, foster honesty in my peers, and take pride in knowing that honor is worth more than grades. I will carry these values beyond my time as a student at Michigan State University, continuing the endeavor to build personal integrity in all that I do.”

The Spartan Code of Honor academic pledge embodies the principles of integrity that every Spartan is required to uphold in their time as a student, and beyond. The academic pledge was crafted with inspiration of existing individual college honor codes, establishing an overarching statement for the entire university. It was formally adopted by ASMSU on March 3, 2016, endorsed by Academic Governance on March 22, 2016, and recognized by the Provost, President, and Board of Trustees on April 15, 2016.

SIRS Evaluations

Michigan State University takes seriously the opinion of students in the evaluation of the effectiveness of instruction and has implemented the Student Instructional Rating System (SIRS) to gather student feedback (https://sirsonline.msu.edu). This course utilizes the online SIRS system, and you will receive an e-mail during the last two weeks of class asking you to fill out the SIRS web form at your convenience. In addition, participation in the online SIRS system involves grade sequestration, which means that the final grade for this course will not be accessible on STUINFO during the week following the submission of grades for this course unless the SIRS online form has been completed. Alternatively, you have the option on the SIRS website to decline to participate in the evaluation of the course. We hope, however, that you will be willing to give us your frank and constructive feedback so that we may instruct students even better in the future. If you access the online SIRS website and complete the online SIRS form or decline to participate, you will receive the final grade in this course as usual once final grades are submitted.

Social Media and Sharing of Course Materials

As members of a learning community, students are expected to respect the intellectual property of course instructors. All course materials presented to students are the copyrighted property of the course instructor and are subject to the following conditions of use:

  1. Students may record lectures or any other classroom activities and use the recordings only for their own course-related purposes.
  2. Students may share the recordings with other students enrolled in the class. Sharing is limited to using the recordings only for their own course-related purposes.
  3. Students may post the recordings or other course materials online or distribute them to anyone not enrolled in the class with the advance written permission of the course instructor and, if applicable, any students whose voice or image is included in the recordings.
  4. Any student violating the conditions described above may face academic disciplinary sanctions.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities should contact the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities to establish reasonable accommodations. For an appointment with a counselor, call 353-9642 (voice) or 355-1293 (TTY)

Drops and Adds

The last day to add this course is the end of the first week of classes. The last day to drop this course with a 100 percent refund and no grade reported is (see Academic Calendar). The last day to drop this course with no refund and no grade reported is (see Academic Calendar). You should immediately make a copy of your amended schedule to verify you have added or dropped this course.

Note on Attendance

Students who fail to attend the first four class sessions or class by the fifth day of the semester, whichever occurs first, may be dropped from the course.