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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 listeners say about Capitalism vs. Socialism: Comparing Economic Systems

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A biased view of economics.

This is a very biased presentation toward socialism. I have listened to a portion of the book, and realized Dr. Stewart has biased views.
I do not recommend this book as an intellectual exploration of economic ideas.


111 people found this helpful

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Smart guy but a bit one sided

Knows his history but he clearly is just making an argument for highly government regulated economic systems

88 people found this helpful

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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.

63 people found this helpful

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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.

50 people found this helpful

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Disappointing

You can use statistics to tell any story you want to tell. The relationship between government regulations and levels of opportunity is completely ignored. Just because the professor spent a great deal of time abroad, doesn’t mean that he is the best qualified. While he has clearly stated that communism is a failed endeavor, he fails to see that socialism will suffer the same fate, it will just take longer to get there. This course is full of half truths insinuations and wrong conclusions. I’ve come to expect more from the teaching company and I hope my Next selection will be presented by a more fair minded Professor

49 people found this helpful

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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.

34 people found this helpful

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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

45 people found this helpful

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Okay...but a little misleading ... a lot of omissions

More of a historical summary then a real in discussion about economics. This professor skips a lot and presents things in a way that seem misleading or a misrepresentation. 'A little knowledge is a dangerous thing': he's very selective and omits important facts. Let's take Smith: 1) Yes, he mentions the Invisible Hand in his book, but Smith (and no real economist) accepts this as some serious proposal or hard fact about supply and demand curves in markets. Why? Because Smith has used this before in other works not related to Wealth of Nations. The Invisible Hand is actually the hand of Jupiter, a poetic flourish Smith employs, not a principle. 2) Smith's pin theory on specialisation of labour is not his own: It is in the book, but he stole that from the French, and it's context does not apply for today. Yes, we have high degrees of specialisation but we also have general labour, and not every job requires the breakdown in his book, due to automation. On Marx, you'd get the impression he was a smart Socialist thinker, who wrote some ideas, inspired Unions, then died. Nothing about Marx's 1) Surplus Value Theory of Labour; 2) Use-Value, Exchange, and Wealth expressed as Commodification; nor his greatest and most relevant work for today: 3) The Alienation of Man, which is a commentary on Smith's specialisation theory. But, he does find time to say in the Soviet section: how in a Capitalist nation like the United States: People who are layed off, just find new jobs, and everything is wonderful and works out because of good ol' Capitalism. I find the distorted and abusive employment of so-callec Soviet or Chinese Communism to be indefensible. In both countries, there was no freedom, no democracy, no debate. This is not Marx. That's not what he would have supported. And Leninism and Stalinism do not represent Marx's ideas. This professor is clearly someone who would've supported Reaganomic's or trickle down because he fails (while correctly pointing out the flaws of Stalinism) to state the main problem with Capitalism's driving force. Is it greed? In a way, yes, but even worse. It's COERCION and inequality. Both which I suspect are okay with this author. What happens if you don't want a job, but still need income? What happens when you are layed off and need to find work and can't get one? He seems to skip over this part very quickly with sentences that suggest with creative destruction: people just find new jobs. Kind of the same way people change brands when shopping for tyres. The problem and basic question they can never escape, which is why Marxism, Socialism, and Communism are still with us as ideas: if Reaganomics and conservative Replublican economic mores were true, then after 40 years, we would all be living in paradise right now. The United States would be a virtual utopia. Yet we have record homeless, poverty, and disease. The most advanced industrial nation in the world, and we still allow people to go hungry, live on the streets, and have little or no access to life-saving healthcare. One country he forgot to mention in his analysis of comparing Socialist regimes, was the United States. The US is the most successful Socialist nation in human history. It socialises debt and privatises profits, and it is for that omission that I rate this two stars.

9 people found this helpful

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The Great Courses are appropriately named

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

14 people found this helpful

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impressivel lecture

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

6 people found this helpful

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  • phil
  • 03-05-19

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

23 people found this helpful

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  • Nick
  • 03-15-19

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.

9 people found this helpful

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  • G Douglas Whistler
  • 12-07-18

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.

36 people found this helpful

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 03-14-20

Somewhat partial

Unimpressive attempt to compare and contrast the differing ideologies. Far too much cherry=picking in an attempt to support his various ideas such as claiming that height is a good indicator of a successful economic system ignoring Dinka and Tutsi in Africa and glossing over the fact that Chinese and Taiwanese are of similar height despite living under completely opposed economic systems. Some of his "claims" seem the sort of myths peddled by Fox news and should be taken with a large pinch of salt. He seems enamoured of the neo-liberal capitalist model and denigrates any other system.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Florentino Quintero
  • 10-13-19

Insightful

The author explains in a clear way the
Differences of capitalism and socialism. I like his enthusiasm as it makes easy to understand the topic.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anna Maria Sobieska
  • 12-24-21

Views on the right

Good course for people who are on the right spectrum of political opinions. If your views are on the left don’t bother.

1 person found this helpful

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  • P
  • 05-12-19

Accessible, entertaining and illuminating

The scope of this course is broader than its title implies. True, the comparison between capitalist and communist economic models is at its heart. But Prof. Stuart also takes the listener on a journey from the birth of the Industrial Revolution in the UK to the growth of the tiger economies of Asia and the pros and cons of the EU along the way. Always listenable and humane, with the odd quip thrown in for good measure, this course is both educational and insightful. It is a very welcome contribution to greater international understanding for young and old alike.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-09-19

A really interesting course and was never boring!

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.

1 person found this helpful

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  • The Blue Reviewer
  • 05-04-18

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 :)

9 people found this helpful

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  • Joseph Edward Denham
  • 12-12-21

Enjoyable read

Easy read and sufficiently non technical to spare us from the dismal details underlying the theory. Interesting overview of communist economies for those of us old enough to remember. Perhaps a touch US centric in outlook but given that awareness it's a great introduction.

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  • Ihab mohsen
  • 09-05-21

great book

this book is greatly narrated, great content, gives huge insights into both economical political system.

1 person found this helpful

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  • James
  • 05-05-22

Provides a lot of insight into modern history

Very educational and balanced overview of humanities' modern economic projects, the thinking/ values behind them, historical context and their consequences etc.
The lecturer is a skilled speaker, and gives good attention to how different cultures adapt broader ideas/ ideologies (e.g Capitalism and Socialism) in unique and sometimes unpredictable ways

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  • slaidlaw
  • 08-22-19

Inappropriately named

This book isn't a comparison of capitalism and socialism. It's a brief history of a few countries economic systems over the past 300ish years.

The content is good and interesting, but not what I was looking for in this book.

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  • Tony Chan Siong Chow
  • 08-01-19

Very enjoyable and informative

Great presentation. Enjoyed the sprinkling of dad jokes. Very informative. Am very glad to have listened to this presentation.

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  • Carol
  • 05-31-19

Awesome Great Lecture

I cannot rate this title highly enough. From the first chapter to the last the information was current, insightful, thought-provoking and I learnt so much about the world I live in.

My only criticism would be that they were a lot of references, which is understandable to the American economy but I really would like to have seen more references to other countries for example Australia New Zealand South American etc.

If you are interested in understanding economics, socialism, communism dictatorships then I recommend you download and listen to this Great Lecture. I’m going back to chapter 1 to listen to it again.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-20-19

very informative

I highly recommend this as a great place to start and discover topics of interest

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  • Annalie
  • 09-05-18

Excellent lecture series

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

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  • Mick
  • 05-04-18

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 person found this helpful