For many political and economic thinkers, the free market and the private economy are the fundamental building blocks of democratic political systems. Yet activist movements of the past twenty years have been increasingly critical of the ways in which private corporations and the inequality of wealth negatively affect our democracy. This seminar will interrogate the relationship between capitalism and democracy, exploring the relationship between economy and politics in the United States and possibly other countries. What are corporations, and what are the philosophical, economic, historical, and political justifications for their existence? What are the essential characteristics of American democracy, and how does our political system cope—or fail to cope—with large concentrations of private power and wealth? Possible readings may include Upton Sinclair, Max Weber, Milton Friedman, and Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation .