Capitalism, Conditions & Consciousness - NASCO Institute

Session materials from "Capitalism, Conditions & Consciousness," which was led by Shay O'Reilly (Union Theological Seminary) at NASCO Institute 2014.


What do mountaintop removal, school privatization, student and credit card debt, Global South sweatshops, hungry children, skyrocketing city rents, and “shitty little jobs” have in common? All are produced by capitalism in the 21st Century. Too often, we mystify the workings of a capitalist political economy, and fail to reckon with the economic system that underlies so many of our struggles — but you can't fight an enemy you don't know. This workshop will give participants a working understanding of how capitalism developed and functions, before moving into an overview of current economic trends towards greater inequality, poverty, racial disparities, and deprivation.


Further Resources:

  • Geoff Mann, Disassembly Required: A Field Guide to Actually Existing Capitalism
  • Karl Marx, Capital, vols 1-3
  • David Harvey’s lectures on Capital (, which may make this a tolerable experience.
  • David Harvey, Limits to Capital 
  •, The Housing Monster (about housing in particular, but gives a good explanation of how capitalism works in the housing market.)
  • Peter Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread (focuses on making revolution happen in late 19th century urban contexts, but contains a great examination of who produces wealth). 
  • Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations 
  • Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation
  • David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism
  • Manning Marable, How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America
  • Eric Williams, Capitalism & Slavery (If you’re really interested in this subject, follow it up with Walter Johnson’s River of Dark Dreams: Slavery & Empire in the Cotton Kingdom and Edward Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, both recent works that have been getting a great deal of press.) 
  • Harry Braverman, Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century (especially about alienation of labor)
  • Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa
  • Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine
  • Willie Baptist & Jan Rehmann, Pedagogy of the Poor
  • Michael Harrington, The New American Poverty
  • Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century
  • David Graeber, Debt: The First 5000 Years
  • Cedric J. Robinson, Black Marxism
  • Maria Mies, Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale
  • Deric Shannon (ed.), The End of the World As We Know It? Crisis, Resistance and the Age of Austerity