Suggested Topics for the Final Paper
1. The development of capitalism has been quite uneven, progressing in some countries rapidly and in other countries quite slowly. What problems does that fact pose for the sort of international working class movement Marx envisions?
2. Write a Marxian critique of the Occupy Movement. Or, write a critique of Marx from the perspective of the Occupy Movement. Or, write critiques of both Marx and the Occupy Movement from some other perspective. I don't care. Just make it penetrating and interesting and original.
3. What is the difference, if any, between mystification and good old garden-variety stupidity, ignorance, and superstition? Give some well-worked-out examples of both and analyze them.
4. Choose some work of Philosophy or Economics or Political Science or Anthropology with which you are really familiar and do an analysis of the relationship between the linguistic structure of the text and the structure of the reality the author is attempting to capture. [Warning: this is super hard, and if I were in the business of giving out brownie points, anyone taking this would get extra brownie points just for trying. On the other hand, it is real easy to crash and burn with this one.]
5. If you have taken a college or graduate Economics course, analyze the difference between the sorts of questions asked by the classical Political Economists and the questions asked by modern neo-classical economists, with special attention to the ideological significance of those differences.
6. In a way, the most original element in my lectures is the idea that a formalization of a narrative account of the economy, or indeed of anything else, must capture in the formalization all of the essential components of the narrative. Choosing ANY text you wish and ANY philosopher you wish, write a paper developing that idea.
7. There has been a good deal of discussion lately [Google it] about the prospect that within a generation, robots will be sufficiently advanced to do most of the work now done by human workers. Write an analysis of the problems [or promise] such a development would present, drawing on Marx's analysis of capitalism for inspiration and guidance.
8. Marx wrote a long chapter in Capital on the working day, and an even longer chapter on machinery and modern industry. But he did not write a chapter on work in a bureaucratic office, which in his day was quite unusual but is today the norm for many, many millions of workers. Try your hand at an analysis, à la Marx, of the modern office. You may, if you wish, include a Dilbert cartoon strip.
9. How did Neolithic human society develop into society with a private ownership of the means of production and a system of courts and police to enforce that ownership? You might want to take a look at The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State by Friedrich Engels -- or some recent anthropology.
10. The most profound statement in all of Marx's writings is the passage I quoted at the very beginning of the course, from the Preface to Marx's An Introduction to the Critique of Political Economy: "No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have been developed and new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself." Now that you know something of Marx's theories, write a paper discussing the implications of this statement for the possibility of a social and economic transformation of capitalism into socialism.