Integrative Studies 231B,

Moral Issues, The Arts, and Humanities

Analysis of Capitalistic Culture

Fall Semester 2006,
Michigan State University

Dr. Christian Lotz


Tentative Schedule (last UPDATE: November 03, 2009)

Number Date Topic Reading Information General
1 Aug 29 Overview  No reading The Nation article  
  Aug 31 Overview No reading    
Segment I: Classical Analysis of Capitalism: Marx
2 Sep 5 Introduction Marx, The Marx Reader, pp. 85-95 Stanford Encyclopedia Entry on Marx; Marx (1); Marx (2); Marx (3)  
3 7 Alienation Marx, The Marx Reader, pp. 85-95    
4 12 Destruction of Morality Marx, The Marx Reader, pp. 124-134    
5 14 History Marx, The Marx Reader, pp. 175-196    
6 19 Commodities Marx, The Marx Reader, pp.458-488    
Transition: Film (Charlie Chaplin, Modern Times)
7 21 Film+Analysis Chaplin, Modern Times   Assignment will be passed out in class (due Sep 26) (counts towards your participation points)
Segment II: Classical Analysis of Capitalism: Weber
8 26 Capitalism and Rationality Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Introduction; pp. 1-39 Weber  
9 28 Work Ethic Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Introduction; pp. 1-51 Usury and religion
10 Oct 3 Calvinism Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism; pp. 53-102 Check Wikipedia entries on Calvinists; Mennonites; Quakers; Pietism; Puritans  
11 5 Asceticism Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, pp. 102-126    
12 10 Exam 1 (Marx/Weber) Exam 1 (Marx/Weber)   Exam 1 (Marx/Weber
Segment III: The Consequences of Contemporary Capitalism I: Living
13 12 Individuality Bauman, Liquid Modernity, foreword, pp. 1-16, chapter 2, pp. 53-91 Bauman  
14 17 Time/Space Bauman, Liquid Modernity, chapter 3, pp. 91-130    
15 19 no class no class   discussion sessions meet as scheduled
16 24 no class no class   discussion sessions meet as scheduled
17 26 Work Bauman, Liquid Modernity, chapter 4, pp. 130-168    
Segment IV: The Consequences of Contemporary Capitalism II: New Economy
18 31 Bureaucracy Sennett, The Culture of the New Capitalism, pp. 15-83 Sennett; Read review  
19 Nov 2 Uselessness Sennett, The Culture of the New Capitalism, pp. 84-131    
20 7 Social Capitalism Sennett, The Culture of the New Capitalism, pp.131-199    
21 9 Exam 2 (Sennett/Baumann) Exam 2 (Sennett/Baumann)   Exam 2 (Sennett/Baumann)
Segment V: The Consequences of Contemporary Capitalism IV: Culture Industry
22 14 Entertainment Industry Adorno, The Culture Industry, pp.61-98 Adorno; Stanford Encyclopedia Entry on Adorno  
23 NEW 16 Film Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent Chomsky Response Paper Topic 1 (Chomsky) will be passed out in class (due Nov 28)
24 21 no class no class    
26 23 no class no class    
25 NEW 28 Entertainment Industry Adorno, The Culture Industry, pp.61-98    
Intermezzo II: Film (Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice)
27 30 Film Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice   Response Paper Topic 2 (Shakespeare) will be passed out in class (due Dec 5)
28 Dec 5 Film Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice    
29 7 Wrap Up Wrap Up Wrap Up Wrap Up


Class Meetings: 
Days: TTH 
Time: 3:00pm-4:20pm
Place: 008 Holden Hall

Phone: 517.353.9721
Place: 507 S. Kedzie Hall
Hours: TTH (1:00-2:00pm), by appointment and by phone


Other Contact:
Home Phone: 517.337.8524

(Please check the webpage regularily for the current schedule)

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

Teaching Assistant 1: Douglas Ponticos

Phone: 517.353.9380
Place: 528 South Kedzie Hall
Hours: Tuesday 1:00-2:00pm; Wednesday 10:00-11:00am

Other Contact:

Teaching Assistant 2: Matthew Johnson

Phone: 517.353.9380
Place: 528 South Kedzie Hall
Hours: TW (1:00-2:00p) and by appointment

Other Contact:

Course Description:

In this class, we will critically explore our social environment by investigating the nature of capitalistic culture, as it has evolved in modernity. As we will not focus specifically on economic questions, we will instead ask how capitalism determines our attitudes, our way of life, our beliefs, the working environment, our psychological health, art, and our concept of freedom. We will read texts from classical philosophy/economics (Marx) and from classical sociology (Weber), as well as two contemporary authors (Sennett, Bauman). In addition, we will study the course topic by reading Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice,” and, finally, we will analyze two movies (Chaplin, Shakespeare). Students who are not willing to study complex texts intensively, which requires spending a good deal of time with these texts outside of the classroom, are advised not to take this class.

IAH Course Goals

IIntegrative Studies 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.


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 philosophy as a general intellectual reflection on what we are and why we are here, 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.

Specific Course Goals

This lecture class should students introduce to

  • analysis of society and our social environment
  • two classical approaches to the analysis of modern capitalism: Marx and Weber
  • contemporary developments regarding modernity, labor, poverty, and consumption
  • the analysis of capitalistic culture in the arts, such as painting, theater, and literature (in this class we will read Shakespeare)
  • the idea that we cannot simply pose capitalism as a moral problem; rather, we first have to understand what it is

Required Texts

We will read important portions of the following texts, which you must purchase in the bookstore:

  • Marx, Karl, The Karl-Marx Reader
  • Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
  • Bauman, Liquid Modernity
  • Sennett, Richard, The Culture of the New Capitalism
  • Adorno, The Culture Industry
  • Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

Additional Texts for Discussion Sections

Logos articles on capitalism: one, two, three, four

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 15 pages)
  • 5 response sheets
  • 2 exams
  • 2 response papers
  • assignments and active participation (discussion section)

Film Analysis

Check out the following site:


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 your papers and in the exam you have to demonstrate whether you have appropriately prepared the readings selected for each lecture.

Make-Up Exam

Students who need to miss the exam for excusable reasons must inform me ahead of time, and will be permitted to make up the exam. I will only accept offical doctor notes (no faxes, no emails) or letters from other professors.

Class 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. Nevertheless, please be aware that you should not make me responsible for a failure that results out of your decision. You should be aware that chances to master this class are minimal, if you do not show up for class or if you do not prepare the readings (=studying).

Response Sheets

Every student is asked to submit "reponse sheets" after my lectures. Every student can submit up to 5 reponse sheets over the course of the semester.

Click here to download the response sheet (Word document)

Note: I will only accept responses that are given on this form.

Response Time

Selected response sheets will be addressed at the beginning of each class. The rest of the response sheets will be handed over to the TA, who will use them to address selected questions in his/her sections. This procedure will help you to clarify problems, reflect on topics, and to find answers to questions that came up during the lecture.

Response Sessions

In addition, selected classes will be held as "response sessions." During those classes you will be able to formulate questions in class, though, as you will see, my lectures are always very "interactive."

Response Paper Assignments

There will be 2 paper assignments (2 pages, 600 words, 12pt Times New Roman, 1 inch margin). The paper assignment should lead you to a reflection and consideration of what we have discovered on the theoretical level about capitalistic culture. I expect well constructed essays that begin with an introduction, present a main claim and are explanatory. Mere summaries or simple "reflection" and "I feel 'X'" papers will not be satisfactory. I will pass out in class on selected dates (see schedule) questions, the written answer to which you will turn in the class after the assignment was passed out (email submissions are not acceptable). Late turn ins will result in loosing 20% of your grade. It is your responsibility to get a copy of the assignment from a study buddy in class if you missed class.


There will be two brief in-class essay exams. You will be offered a set of essay-questions, one of which you will answer in a brief essay about the material that I discussed in my lectures. Note that mere memorization of what I lectured about will not be a satisfactory preparation of the exam; rather, you should demonstrate that you thought about and understand the material. You will not be able to answer the exam question(s) if you did not study the texts. Every question on the exam will be a pass/fail question [changed 10/2/2006].

Click here to download the review sheet for exam 1 (pdf)
Click here to download the review sheet for exam 2 (pdf)


You will receive points for participation and (group work) assignments in your discussion section (see below).

Course Evaluation

You will be evaluated on the basis of:

5 response sheets (to be submitted during the course of the semester) 10 points
2 exams 20/20 points
2 response papers 15/15 points
assignments and participation in discussion section 20 points
  100 points


4.0 100 - 93
3.5 92 - 87
3 86 - 82
2.5 81 - 77
2 76 - 72
1.5 7165
1.0 6460
0.0 < 60

GENERIC SYLLABUS (might not be applicable to each class)

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

Click here to see my grading criteria for oral presentations (not required in this class)
Click here to see my grading criteria for papers (tentative)
Click here to see an EXAMPLE of my grading criteria for essay exams (taken from an older class)

Helpful information about oral presentations, paper writing and plagiarism

Click here to find help on your presentations and your writing

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 for an overview and hours. For more information, please call 517.432.3610 or send an e-mail to


In any essay or exam answer submitted for assessment, all passages taken from other people's work must be placed within quotation marks, with specific reference to author, title and page. no excuse can be accepted for any failure to do so, nor will inclusion of the source in a bibliography be considered inadequate acknowledgement. If the marker decides that plagiarism has occurred, the student may be judged to have failed the class.

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: 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. Also, you are not authorized to use the Web site to complete any course work in (insert course number here). 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

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.

Back to classes

Andrew File System Retirement

Andrew File System, which hosts this address, will be ending service by January 1, 2021. Learn about the retirement process, managing your existing files, and alternative services at the Andrew File System Retirement Information Page.