Distributor:  Icarus Films
Length:  53 minutes
Date:  2015
Genre:  Expository
Language:  English; French
Color/BW:  Color
Closed captioning available
Interactive transcript available
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Adam Smith, The Birth of the Free Market

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Capitalism is much more complex than the vision Adam Smith laid out. Indeed, it predates Smith by centuries and took root in the practices of colonialism and the slave trade. (Episode 1 of the Capitalism series)

Adam Smith, The Birth of the Free Market

'The magical circle of investment and conquest... begins with the discovery of the Americas. This is the engine of two wheels: the wheel of scientific discoveries and the wheel of capitalist economy. Credit, investment, profits. More credit, more investment, more profits.' - Historian Yuval Noah Harari

How did capitalism develop? For centuries, the standard formulation - laid out by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations and repeated uncritically ever since - has gone like this: humans used to trade and barter, but as society became increasingly complex, barter became harder to manage and money developed.

The trouble is that - like the story of Columbus discovering America - everything about this classical formulation is wrong.

This episode explores the origins of capitalism, arguing that it is inextricably linked to colonialism, the rise of science, and the slave trade. Capitalism preceded Smith by centuries - the plantations of the West Indies were purely capitalist enterprises, as were the privately-funded expeditions that colonized much of the world. Like today's startups, these ventures offered high risk but huge rewards to those that succeeded.

On a journey covering four continents and nearly a millennium, we discover the flourishing free market of 12th-century China, learn how the economics of indigenous societies differed vastly from their portrayal by Smith, and come to understand how the European 'discovery' of America fuelled a scientific boom that was integral to colonization and economic exploitation - creating a global capitalist boom that was felt from the streets of China, to the slave castles of West Africa, the markets of Spain and the pastures of England.

Featuring historian and Smith biographer Nicholas Phillipson, economist Kari Polanyi Levitt, historian Yuval Noah Harari, and others.

"A captivating epic... a major contribution to economic and social reflection." —Le Monde (France)

 

"Brings clarity to confusion, makes complexities accessible, and produces a clear narrative of a system that seems opaque to most people." —Journal du Dimanche (France)

 

"Masterly... is going to revolutionize our vision of the economic world." —La Vie (France)

 

"In first look CAPITALISM seems like the economics class you should have skipped.... but in a second look CAPITALISM is the seminar that you must take in the second semester ... the point of view is very different and surprising, the result is an impressive, visually rich series.” —Israel HaYom (Israel)

 

"Should not be missed! Combines highly educational explanations of concepts, economic history and contemporary life, to create a series of documentaries, each of which it is difficult to stop watching!" —Alternatives Economiques (France)

 

"10 Stars! A truly captivating series that delves into history, philosophy, investigates four corners of the planet, and stimulates the viewer with a re-examination of the basic concepts that define our lives." —Globes (Israel)

 

The series was chosen as one of the ten best programs in France in 2014.

Citation

Main credits

Clarke, George T. (narrator)
Ziv, Ilan (film director)
Ziv, Ilan (film producer)
Ziv, Ilan (screenwriter)
Nahon, Bruno (screenwriter)
Nahon, Bruno (film producer)
Cadieux, Paul (film producer)

Other credits

Director of photography, Phillipe, Bellaiche; editor, David Le Guerrier; original music, Robert-Marcel Lepage.


Distributor credits

By Ilan Ziv

Docuseek2 subjects

Capitalism
Business
Business Ethics
Economics
Sociology
Western Europe
Globalization
Historiography
World History
Labor Studies
Philosophy, Critical Thinking and Ethics
Politics and Political Science
Political Philosophy

Distributor subjects

Business
Business Ethics
Business and Economics
Economics
Economic Sociology
Europe (West)
Globalization
Historiography
History (World)
Labor Studies
Philosophy
Political Science
Political Theory
Politics
Sociology

Keywords

; "Episode 1"; Icarus Films; capitalism

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