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Capitalism vs. Socialism: Comparing Economic Systems

Length: 11 hrs and 59 mins
5 out of 5 stars (33 ratings)
Non-member price: $48.69
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Publisher's Summary

Ever since we produced our course Thinking About Capitalism, customers have expressed interest in a follow-up course that could help them understand socialism in the same way. After much consideration, we determined that it actually would be more beneficial to create a course that compares and contrasts the two major global economic theories, examining them in ways that move past the polemics many of us are used to and looking at these systems as they relate to one another and the world at large.

Politics and economics are inextricable, so it can be difficult to find the right person to tackle such a complex and often polarizing subject as objectively as possible. Luckily, we found Professor Edward Stuart, an economist and teacher who specializes in comparative economics. Professor Stuart brings not only economic expertise, but personal experience gleaned from teaching, traveling, and consulting all over the world, and it is this wide lens of experience that helps make Capitalism vs. Socialism such an engaging new entry in our library of courses.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2018 The Great Courses (P)2018 The Teaching Company, LLC

What members say

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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent lecture series

Insightful overview on the development of global economic systems. A lively presentation, worth listening to!

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Great lecture, engaging lecturer!

loved it, couldn't stop listening, had it wrapped up in no time. Definately worth the time to listen to.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Marc Mallette
  • 06-07-2018

Good course, misleading title

This is an interesting and well-presented course on modern economic history, not so much an actual comparison of economic systems.

31 of 31 people found this review helpful

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  • Mariann
  • 24-07-2018

Two thirds Great

The teacher is really good. It seems like he has personal experience in every single nation he mentioned. A huge chunk of the beginning was basic economic theory (Adams, Cain and Marks) and the economics of Soviet Russia and present day United States. I dearly wish he had spent a little more time on the European Union. He said it was a success AND a failure, then didn’t fully say why. Another topic which I wish he had elaborated more on was the three Asian tigers. Why are these places so different from the rest of the world? I know this was generalized course and there are doubtless a lot of books on the topic but there was a lot of time spent reiterating stuff on Russia. If the Soviet system was the same in all the Russian satellite countries, then I don’t need a new general background on communism for every country that was communist.
Still, was really solid. I had no idea how different France and Germany were compared to the US economically. Most people will probably learn a lot.

18 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • Trebla
  • 15-05-2018

More History than Econ

I am neither historian nor economist, but I did expect more explanation of the ideas and workings of economics and especially the differences between capitalism and socialism. While there was some talk of economic functions it was almost lost under the verbose repetition of European and some world history- but with little in the way of building an overview of the two systems

26 of 28 people found this review helpful

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  • R. Beise-Zee
  • 20-07-2018

Too much history, not enough theory

I was looking forward to the counterpoint to Thinking about capitalism, but was somewhat disappointed. I was expecting a bit more about the ideological or theoretical system of socialism and marxism and less an historical overview of countries. There too much about Keynesian economics and some of the historical vignettes seemed superficial. Overall a superficial treatise of socialism.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Mateusz Canova
  • 11-05-2018

History of application of both economic systems

I was searching for a book that would answer a question that I constantly stumble upon in internet: which system is better? After reading I can confirm that neither is good, but a combination of both works best.

The author compares both systems, by looking at how they were applied in life. Some of the examples he uses are China, England or the Soviet Block countries. While this is an absolutely valid and correct approach, I thought I would get something different. I imagined the book will be more theoretical and will tackle more the feasibility of ideas presented by both systems. Truth be told, we get this in the first chapters of the book, but it was not enough for me. I would also like to see/hear more analysis of the economies of the other soviet block countries.

Overall, while I had some objections, I that this is a really great book with nice performance. It is my first book from the Great Courses, I think it raises the bar pretty high. I will definitely keep it in my library.

16 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Hanoch Yokev
  • 14-10-2018

impressivel lecture

too long, emphsizes the obvious. nevertheless , very good big picture, and the description of the collapse of iron sheild is fascinating.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 30-08-2018

Good lecture.

You should read “The Creature form Jekyll Island” for a better understanding of the time period. This lecture does not cover fractional reserve banking (like it should) that causes booms and busts to occur with on capitalist economies.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Scott Hansen
  • 05-08-2018

The Great Courses are appropriately named

This was the best, non political, explanation of economics I have heard in a long time.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 29-07-2018

Scientific Economics

An excellent review of 20th century economic systems and history. What's the difference between the economics of Sweden and Slovenia? Find out in this user friendly course.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Fernando Amador
  • 28-07-2018

Good presentation

A very important contribution to general knowledge; though I think leaves out the essence of the lessons of History.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • G Douglas Whistler
  • 07-12-2018

A history of why capitalism was best all along!

This lecture series is a basic introduction to the various, specific, real-world political-economic systems employed in Europe, Asia, & the United States in the twentieth century.  It is not very ambitious in terms of looking further than the global North, & it does not address intended, imagined, or ideal poltical economic systems.  These lectures are a twentieth-century economic history course, not a comparative economics course.

The lecturer is a US-American, whose pro-market, consumer-focussed stance is unwavering, & whose willingness to tie the value of (non-free market) economic systems to the personal & political failings of their proponents is highly ideological & reductionist.  In addition, he has a frustrating habit of expending a lot of time on tangentially-relevant personal anecdotes rather than the subject of his lectures.  His personal pride, sexism, obsession with the national origins of individuals, interest in the 'national' characteristics of economics, & (in one instance) open racism (he justified US slavery on the grounds of Africans' better tolerance to labouring under a hot sun!) made parts of the course particularly difficult.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • phil
  • 05-03-2019

Not a comparison

I finished the first 9 lectures on high speed. Too devoid of analysis to proceed further.

No knowledge of economics, maths, or history is assumed by Stuart. Nevertheless beginners should look elsewhere.

This is NOT a comparative lecture series. Presumably the publisher chose the title as even an undergraduate would know this content would score very poorly on an essay question on compare x and y. Rather the course would be better titled my favourite random autobiographical anecdotes about how modern countries somewhat differ (as the analysis doesn’t extend beyond a few choice anecdotes it’s impossible to generalize from them to an understanding of their economy as a whole). We hear several times about Stuart’s trip to Sweden to buy a Saab car; but he even fails to relate to relate his own point to any sustained analysis. Each country is stand alone, there’s no comparison to other countries within the same lecture. As you may gather from the contents below there's no analysis of competting ideology eithee.

The PDF supplement.

The bibliography is woefully inadequate, for one there's nor the slightest indication why you should be interested in any particular entry. Professor Stuart presumably expects the customer to have received the supplementary tea leaves, the only entry under Marx is MARX, KARL, AND FREDERICK ENGELS. Selected Works in One Volume New York: International Publishers, 1968. Wow insightful stuff.

The recommended questions to each lecture. Mea culpa on occasion I find these very useful for reviewing what I could have taken away from each lecture, if I’m in a hurry they serve as an indication of ah yes I’d like to listen to this lecture so I can answer this. Frankly sometimes I’m lazy and have taken on board a sense of entitlement to advance questions to ask of a book in advance of a seminar. Stuart’s are utterly banal e.g. How would your different political, moral, and religious values cause you to prefer a particular kind of economic system? Thank you for that challenge.

The contents


1 Gorbachev’s Hello and the Soviet Goodbye . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
2 Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Keynes, and Friedman . . . . . . . . . . . 13
3 How to Argue GDP, Inflation, and Other Data . . . . . . . . . . . 24
4 British Revolution: Industry and Labor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
5 American Capitalism: Hamilton and Jefferson . . . . . . . . . . . 44
6 Utopian Socialism to Amana Microwave Ovens . . . . . . . . . . 55
7 The Bolsheviks: Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64
8 Soviet Planning and 1,000 Left-Foot Shoes . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74
9 Economic Consequences of European Peace . . . . . . . . . . . . 86
10 How FDR and Keynes Tried to Save Capitalism . . . . . . . . . . 98
11 Social Democracy in Europe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 110
12 Sweden’s Mixed Economy Model . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122
13 French Indicative Planning and Jean Monnet . . . . . . . . . . . . 132
14 British Labour Party and National Health . . . . . . . . . . . . . 144
15 Social Welfare in Germany: Bismarck to Kohl . . . . . . . . . . . . 156
16 Soviet Bloc: Conformity and Resistance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 167
17 Two Germanies: A Laboratory in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . 178
18 The Soviet Union’s Fatal Failure to Reform . . . . . . . . . . . . 189
19 “Blinkered and Bankrupt” in Eastern Europe . . . . . . . . . . . 200
20 From Chairman Mao to the Capitalist Roaders . . . . . . . . . . . 211
21 After Deng, China Privatizes and Globalizes ............. 222
22 Asian Tigers: Wealth and State Control . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 233
23 European Union: Success or Failure? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 245
24 Both Sides Now: Experiment in Slovenia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 255

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • The Blue Reviewer
  • 04-05-2018

Brilliant!

Imagine yourself in a concert hall and everybody is sitting down. You see the stage well enough, but you'd see it better if you stood up. But if everyone else stood up at the same time, everybody will see less than when everyone was sat down.

I paraphrased the analogy used to to explain the "Paradox of Thrift". This is what makes this audio book so brilliant. It is peppered with such analogies.

Professor Edward is excellent, his delivery flawless and he likes to use puns and then apologise for them :)

8 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 09-04-2019

A really interesting course and was never boring!<br />

the course tackled some difficult questions and does not provide any clear answers to some of them...not at all a criticism, makes it quite clear as to why some major economic problems exist and as to why it's very complicated.

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  • Nick
  • 15-03-2019

Fascinating and enlightening

I found this completely addictive and immersive. It's a vital and fraught subject and I found Professor Stuart pitched it at just the right level: personal and humorous without dumbing down or not doing justice to the gravity of the issues and history, and getting into the meat of the issues without drowning the listener in economic jargon or detail – it was always fascinating and accessible.

I would also like to take issue with the bizarre second paragraph of the review by G Douglas Whistler. Unsurprisingly, Stuart does not justify slavery (which he explicitly refers to as a "barbaric practice")! Stuart explains that Southern US plantation owners switched from white labourers to black slaves because the former fared badly in the southern climate – that is a description of slaveowners' motives, not a justification of them! There is no "obsession" with "national origins of individuals", unless explaining things like how Adam Smith's thoughts emerged in the specific context of the Scottish Enlightenment is what the reviewer is referring to! "Personal pride and sexism": I can only speculate wildly as to what might have prompted those particular judgements. I assume the reviewer believes that communism could have worked much better than capitalism if only the communist leaders had been better, and is angry that Stuart does not explore this idea. Instead, Stuart is never ham-fisted, but based on his lectures and focus on history, rather than theorising, one does get a positive impression of social democratic systems like Sweden and Slovenia, and a much less favourable impression of both state planned and free market systems. Even then, Stuart is always careful to state both pros and cons. Even the Stalinist system receives recognition for the speed of industrial transformation, and for getting women in the workplace much earlier than in the USA.

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  • Paul c
  • 25-02-2019

Good listen

Interesting through out. Very much a must to anyone interested in economic systems. An eye opener regarding various countries and their monetary practices and wealth distributions. Well read and presented.

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  • brian daly
  • 03-11-2018

excellent

brilliant that audible do the great courses and the latest courses at that keep up the good work brian daly

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  • Avity
  • 30-06-2018

interesting overview

Easy listening, filled with personal touches to enchance the sometimes dry info. Would recommended to anyone interested on the subject.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Thomas White
  • 10-09-2018

The great economic course

A Wonderful listen for anyone remotely curious - interesting, easy going and entertaining- fully recommended to all

0 of 1 people found this review helpful