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 evaluate different theories of capitalism and consider the ways that thinking about capitalism has changed over time. Is economic inequality a threat to democratic institutions? How does our political system cope—or fail to cope—with large concentrations of private power and wealth? What does it mean to think about economic life from different disciplinary perspectives? Possible readings may include Adam Smith, Max Weber, Nancy Folbre, and Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow .