“Why are some nations rich but others poor?” might be the key question in economics. This seminar introduces students to sociology’s distinct approach to economic behavior. What is special about this approach is that it sees economic modernization as a series of societal projects. During the course of the semester, we will explore societal projects such as the developing of intercontinental trade routes by Europe’s East India companies, the building of large-scale factories by early industrialists in Northern England, and the construction of the world’s new hardware capital in Shenzhen. We will make sense of these projects by discussing major theories on the peculiarities of the capitalist economic system and by cross-checking classics like Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Émile Durkheim, Max Weber and Karl Polanyi with current work by economic historians.

The seminar will be conducted in English. Students can submit essays in either English or German. Oral contributions are made in English, but occasional use of the German language is possible and is recommended when it serves clarity.