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Undergraduate course

Anthropological Research Agendas: Capitalism/Anti-capitalism/Post-capitalism

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Level of Study


Teaching semester


Objectives and Content

This course gives a comprehensive introduction to a specific area of contemporary anthropological investigation. Current research trends and recent theoretical developments are explored through critical discussions with emphasis on anthropology's evolving engagement with the selected field. The course offers a unique opportunity to be acquainted with diverse aspects - methodological, epistemological and theoretical - of the research process, aspects that lie at the very basis of anthropological analysis and practice, and of ethnographic production.

Capitalism as we know it is not sustainable. It assumes endless accumulation, infinite resources, infinitely growing consumption, a planet without limits, and a socially polarized humanity that is endlessly and happily disruptable. As shown by the success of recent authors such as Thomas Piketty, David Graeber and Jason Moore, intellectual and social responsibility requires that we put capitalism/anti-capitalism/post-capitalism on the agenda (again). That is, we must again study 'capitalism as such', generically - and not just its empirical 'social problems'.

This interdisciplinary course will look at the history and fundamentals of capitalism, not as a mere 'economy' but as a form of society and a culture, a way of organizing social life, knowledge, resources, habitats, territory and the planet. Offered from within the department of social anthropology by the 'Frontlines of Value' research group, it will offer a broad introduction into the historical and contemporary international debates around capitalism. What is capitalism, in the first place? Where does it come from and how does it work? We will look at social and historical theory, from the 19th century debates to the 'transition debates' of the 1970s and 80s, the 'rise of the west', World System Theory, theories about empire and imperialism, cognitive capitalism, creativity and the creative class, info-capitalism, digital capitalism, post-capitalism, finance and financialization, development and anti-development, precarious labor, class, and 'surplus populations', ecology and the 'capitalocene', capitalism and the urban, among others. Inevitably we will discuss basic notions such as class and value, too. While the course offers a birds' eye view, it will not refrain from going into depth on key issues/concepts (partly depending on the interest of the students).

Learning Outcomes

A student who has completed the course should have the following learning outcomes defined in terms of knowledge, skills and general competence:


  • provide an overview of the field of study addressed in the course, with particular reference to its history and theoretical and methodological debates in social anthropology


  • explain the current state-of-art of research in the field of study addressed in the course
  • explain the various methodological and theoretical considerations that must be taken in order to further develop the field of study

General competence

  • apply key concepts and perspectives from the course and its field of study independently, in the understanding and analysis of local and global processes
  • apply an understanding of the correlation and difference between empirical data, theory and analysis in text production

Required Previous Knowledge


Access to the Course


Teaching and learning methods

Lectures, seminars, presentations

2-4 hours per week

5-10 weeks, 24-26 hours in total

Compulsory Assignments and Attendance

Submission of one essay (1500 words +/- 10%).

Only with an approved assignment will students be allowed to take the exam.

Approved compulsory assignment is valid for 1 semester.

Forms of Assessment

Take home exam, 7 days. Words: 3000 (+/- 10 %)

Grading Scale


Assessment Semester

Assessment in teaching semester.

Course Evaluation

All courses are evaluated according to UiB's quality assurance system.


Department of Social Anthropology

Exam information

  • Type of assessment: Take home exam

    Assignment handed out
    22.03.2021, 09:00
    Submission deadline
    29.03.2021, 14:00
    Withdrawal deadline
    Examination system
    Digital exam