Capitalism vs. Socialism: Comparing Economic Systems

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Well presented and very interesting. Recommended. Interesting to compare differing economic systems everywhere. The course opens up plenty about history too, and how we arrive at where we are. The professor comes over as very human and likeable, with plenty of “human touch” anecdotes. I strongly recommend this course, though I was a tad disappointed with what appeared to be a dismissive approach to the Brits who voted for Brexit, the recent decision for the UK to leave the EU. Xenophobic and racist was mentioned; fairly typical recoil of the embittered elites who didn’t get their way with the referendum. In fact, the reasoning is much more complex. That aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the course, and the professor.
Date published: 2020-10-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Captivating and Useful This was time so well spent for me. I learned how and why we are where we are and what options we have to choose from
Date published: 2020-08-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Clarity of content and presentation Economics is a complex subject and often tainted by politics. Thus far, course is clear and the lecturer is very clear in his presentation and is entertaining. I highly recommend it.
Date published: 2020-08-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding course! Since 1991 I have watched >250 courses. This course is near the top. The professor delivers fascinating lectures in a clear and articulate style. I wish I had had Dr. Stuart when I was taking economics in college. I sincerely hope that Dr. Stuart will teach future courses for The Great Courses/The Great Courses Plus.
Date published: 2020-08-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from extremely interesting with todays discussion about socialism and the American economy, I waned to learn more about the debate for both capitalism and socialism. Dr. Steward Stuart did a fantastic job of describing both systems. I am not a convert but appreciate the comparison of different countries.
Date published: 2020-08-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great refresher course Having studied economics this subject matter is not obscure to me. With this course I learned another way of looking at it.
Date published: 2020-08-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Lecturer I found this course to be an excellent study of economic systems. More importantly, I found Dr. Stuart to be an excellent teacher. He is well organized, concise, and very easy to listen to. I would buy an course that he teaches.
Date published: 2020-08-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Capitalism vs Socialism Lecturer was knowledgeable and has good presentation skills, including a bit of humor. Lecture lineup was a bit disjointed, not following the chronology of economic thought after 1776. Skipping briefly over some major players like Malthus and Veblen a negative Country by country discussions were interesting but at times veered away from the course title
Date published: 2020-05-06
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Capitalism vs. Socialism: Comparing Economic Systems
Course Trailer
Gorbachev’s Hello and the Soviet Goodbye
1: Gorbachev’s Hello and the Soviet Goodbye

Begin your foray into comparative economics with a look at the USSR in the final few years before its collapse and the restructuring known as perestroika, which led to an increased interest in the study of capitalism versus socialism in the U.S. Examine some of the major questions that shape economic systems and close with a brief overview of the goals and scope of the course.

31 min
Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Keynes, and Friedman
2: Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Keynes, and Friedman

Meet four of the most influential economic thinkers in history: Adam Smith, Karl Marx, John Maynard Keyes, and Milton Friedman. As you examine their individual philosophies and influences across three centuries, you may be surprised by how many of their ideas overlap even as their philosophies differ.

32 min
How to Argue GDP, Inflation, and Other Data
3: How to Argue GDP, Inflation, and Other Data

From GDP and inflation to unemployment and standard of living, there is no one absolute measurement that determines the health of an economy. Get an overview of the different metrics for economic success and a general understanding of how they are calculated and interpreted—and why these data points can start more arguments than they resolve.

31 min
British Revolution: Industry and Labor
4: British Revolution: Industry and Labor

Travel to the birthplace of industrial capitalism: Great Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries. A fortuitous meeting of politics, technology, and economics would shape the future and give the world innovations like insurance, corporate ownership and investment, and extended payment systems. It would also inspire writers like Charles Dickens to reveal the horrifying social repercussions of unregulated industrialization.

30 min
American Capitalism: Hamilton and Jefferson
5: American Capitalism: Hamilton and Jefferson

Modern capitalism may have been born in England, but America would be defined by it from the very beginning. Look at some of the paradoxes inherent in free market systems and how Protestant religious philosophy played a significant part in the direction of the economy. Then, see how founding figures like Hamilton and Jefferson set the course for American economic dominance in the years to come.

30 min
Utopian Socialism to Amana Microwave Ovens
6: Utopian Socialism to Amana Microwave Ovens

The many opportunities and innovations of capitalism in the U.S. did not come without a cost. Religious and political thinkers alike turned to new solutions to alleviate the often horrible conditions many workers experienced, resulting in socialist projects that fell into two camps: utopian and scientific. Close with a look at the difficulties inherent in running socialist systems in a largely market economy.

29 min
The Bolsheviks: Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin
7: The Bolsheviks: Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin

Why was Soviet communism doomed to failure? Beginning with the Bolshevik revolution, witness the birth and troubled development of communism in a country that was spectacularly ill-equipped to start a government from scratch. See why Marx never envisioned communism taking root in an illiterate, agrarian society and how the lack of economic experience in Soviet leadership created a spiral of disasters.

28 min
Soviet Planning and 1,000 Left-Foot Shoes
8: Soviet Planning and 1,000 Left-Foot Shoes

Examine the ways Stalin sought to exercise complete control of the Soviet economy, focusing on his Five-Year Plan for production— an object lesson in the complexities of anticipating and satisfying the material needs of a society. Professor Stuart also gives you an eye-opening look at the ways economics and politics can feed off of one another. Or, in this case, starve each other.

28 min
Economic Consequences of European Peace
9: Economic Consequences of European Peace

The end of World War I illustrates one of the iron laws of capitalism: upheavals in one part of the world have repercussions all around it. Understand how the Treaty of Versailles set up harsh terms for a depleted Germany and why shortsighted leadership from the Allied powers led to economic fallout and, eventually, the second World War.

29 min
How FDR and Keynes Tried to Save Capitalism
10: How FDR and Keynes Tried to Save Capitalism

Was the stock market crash of 1929 the cause of the Great Depression? Find out why Black Tuesday was actually a symptom rather than a cause and trace the origins of the Depression in the U.S. to events and policies of the 1920s, both domestic and international. Then, look at the ways FDR applied the ideas of John Maynard Keynes to help America recover from economic devastation.

29 min
Social Democracy in Europe
11: Social Democracy in Europe

In the wake of economic and social turmoil in the 19th century, some European countries sought to reform the capitalist system and make it more sustainable. Examine the different motives behind the reforms, understand the differences between public and private goods, and compare and contrast the myriad ways economies can blend capitalism and socialism.

31 min
Sweden’s Mixed Economy Model
12: Sweden’s Mixed Economy Model

Called “The Third Way” by some economists, the economic system of Sweden is perhaps the best example of a philosophy that falls between the extremes of free market capitalism and government-controlled socialism. Professor Stuart explains the many factors that have contributed to Sweden’s relative economic success and what it can teach us about mixed economies.

29 min
French Indicative Planning and Jean Monnet
13: French Indicative Planning and Jean Monnet

Discover why France, a latecomer to industrial capitalism, was vital in shaping influential socialist theories, and how centuries of political upheaval can leave distinct impressions on a nation’s economic history. From the French Revolution to World War II and beyond, France is a strong example of the ways economies are shaped by both internal and external forces.

31 min
British Labour Party and National Health
14: British Labour Party and National Health

The British economy has vacillated between privatization and nationalization over time. Here you will look at one of these shifts by first examining the socialist programs introduced by a post-World War II Labour Party government (including the National Health Service), followed by the Margaret Thatcher era of deregulations and privatizations.

30 min
Social Welfare in Germany: Bismarck to Kohl
15: Social Welfare in Germany: Bismarck to Kohl

Socialist policies are not limited to the realm of idealists and reformers. Germany under Otto von Bismarck shows how socialist policies like public education, unemployment benefits, and tax-funded healthcare can be used to create more efficient workforces. See how Bismarck’s ideas were used to help Germany achieve greater political power and trace the echoes of his legacy into the 20th century under Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

30 min
Soviet Bloc: Conformity and Resistance
16: Soviet Bloc: Conformity and Resistance

After World War II, the Allied powers were divided by their economic policies, resulting in a divided Europe. Examine the ways Soviet Russia dominated the nations of Eastern Europe, bringing them under the umbrella of authoritarian communism, and which nations pushed back against this takeover. In contrast, also look at the policies and institutions put in place by the Western allies to rebuild Europe.

31 min
Two Germanies: A Laboratory in Economics
17: Two Germanies: A Laboratory in Economics

The post-war occupation of Germany by four separate powers—and the difficult question of how to avoid the problems that stemmed from the Treaty of Versailles just a few decades earlier—created a division that would dominate Europe for more than four decades. It also created a unique opportunity for direct comparison between communist and capitalist enterprise, which you will take advantage of here.

28 min
The Soviet Union’s Fatal Failure to Reform
18: The Soviet Union’s Fatal Failure to Reform

Despite attempts by some Soviet leaders in the mid-to-late 20th century, Russia was never able to successfully reform the oppressive and increasingly inefficient Soviet communist system. Professor Stuart shows how the authoritarian government encouraged dysfunctional behavior in production and why the resulting scarcity of decent goods and services ultimately became unsupportable.

29 min
“Blinkered and Bankrupt” in Eastern Europe
19: “Blinkered and Bankrupt” in Eastern Europe

In retrospect, it would seem that communism in Eastern Europe was doomed to fail. However, when the communist governments began to collapse in the 1980s, it took many people in the West by surprise. Trace the ways Soviet communism’s failures were replicated over and over again in the Eastern Bloc nations, with nearly the same results for each of them.

30 min
From Chairman Mao to the Capitalist Roaders
20: From Chairman Mao to the Capitalist Roaders

Professor Stuart turns his attention to China, focusing on the 20th-century influence of Soviet communism under leaders like Mao Zedong. Look at the ways China was shaped by its earlier history to be especially unprepared for industrialization on the Soviet scale and how the cultural revolution under Mao further impeded progress, eventually resulting in an overthrow of his ideas after his death.

30 min
After Deng, China Privatizes and Globalizes
21: After Deng, China Privatizes and Globalizes

How was China able to make the dramatic transformation from a nation in decline to a global economic powerhouse in just a few decades? Contrast the economic reforms under “capitalist roader” Deng Xiaoping against the earlier communist strategy under Mao, as well as against the unsuccessful attempts at similar reform in Russia under Gorbachev. Close with a look at China’s economic influence on the world stage.

32 min
Asian Tigers: Wealth and State Control
22: Asian Tigers: Wealth and State Control

Reveal the secrets behind the remarkable transformations of the “Asian Tiger” countries of South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore from poor countries to high-income economies in the span of 50 years. Starting with their shared features, trace their progression from authoritarian regimes to more democratic governments and compare and contrast their concentrated efforts to shape their economies.

32 min
European Union: Success or Failure?
23: European Union: Success or Failure?

While the European Union has been a spectacular success in its fundamental mission—preventing war between major European powers—here you will also look at the other ways it could be considered a failure. Professor Stuart presents the post-war conditions under which the EU was created and the dimensions of its economic influence, for good and ill, throughout Europe.

32 min
Both Sides Now: Experiment in Slovenia
24: Both Sides Now: Experiment in Slovenia

What does the future hold for economies around the world? Using Slovenia as a model, explore some of the crucial questions concerning the evolution of world economies. Are economies becoming more similar? Or are they diverging? Is there even a clear-cut answer? The issues and debates that opened the course come full circle here; definitive answers remain elusive, but the tools provided open up a world of possibilities.

34 min
Edward F. Stuart

Virtually all countries around the world debate the role of government and market institutions.


University of Oklahoma


Northeastern Illinois University

About Edward F. Stuart

Edward F. Stuart is a Professor Emeritus of Economics at Northeastern Illinois University, where he has been a member of the faculty since 1986. He earned his Ph.D. in Economics at the University of Oklahoma, specializing in International Economics and Russian and Eastern European Studies. He teaches courses in international economics, the economics of the European Union, comparative economic systems, European economic history, and macroeconomic theory. He is also the chair of the Faculty Advisory Committee on International Programs and has led study tours to France, Germany, Austria, Italy, and Spain. Professor Stuart has been a visiting guest professor at the University of Salzburg in Austria, the Burgundy School of Business in France, the Ural State Pedagogical University in Russia, and the Warsaw School of Economics and the University of Warsaw in Poland. In January 2014, he served as a guest professor at the China University of Petroleum-Beijing’s Academy of Chinese Energy Strategy. He has also served as an adjunct faculty at Loyola University Chicago’s Quinlan School of Business. For the past 15 years, Professor Stuart has worked as a consultant to several international relocation firms and has been published widely in the field of economics. He has made appearances as an analyst on radio and television programs, including NPR, Chicago’s WGN Morning News, FOX 32 Chicago’s evening news, WTTW’s Chicago Tonight, and News Talk 980 CKNW in Vancouver, Canada.

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