Sunday, November 25, 2007

Take Home Alternative for Last Reading Reflection of Fall 2007

You are to let me know if you decide to do this Take Home Alternative to the Reading Reflection #3 by phoning me or text messaging me by Monday, Nov. 26 at 5:00 pm EST (I've given you a 5 hour extension on making a decision). My cell phone number is 416.940.0340. If you text message me, please also include your name in the text message.

• Monday, Dec. 3, 2007, 12:00 pm (noon) EST

Mode of delivery:

• Email me at Due to the work-to-rule in place (see blog), I will not respond to your email but I will receive your Take Home Alternative by email.


• Like the Reading Reflections, this option is weighted as 10% of your total course mark. Because this exercise is slightly more creative (and more challenging) than the Reading Reflections, I will automatically give a bonus mark of 0.25% to anyone who chooses this option. If you’ve done all of the readings and attended most of the seminars, you should find these questions very doable.


• You are to answer two of the following four questions in the exact same format as you would the Reading Reflections (2.5 pages, double-spaced per question, 5 pages total).
• Directly answer the questions as a mini essay. Unlike the Reading Reflections, you are to specifically answer the questions rather than primarily conducting a summary of the readings. I expect the responses to be tightly argued, drawing primarily from the readings in question. You may also draw from any other relevant seminar materials we’ve engaged with throughout the semester to support your responses. That is, your main goal for the two mini essays is to answer the question I pose using the specific readings I mention. You can then, if you wish, support your answers by using further examples you might deem useful from any of the readings we’ve conducted over the past three months, from class discussions, or from the films we’ve watched.

Please answer TWO of the following four questions. Follow the instructions above:

1) Critique the main themes of Adam Smith’s concept of the “division of labour” using a Marxist approach. In other words, how would Marx critique Smith’s theory of the division of labour and its place for human prosperity? What would he have to say about Smith’s key assumptions? (Hint: You can draw freely from the three Marx readings we’ve looked at throughout the term. I also encourage you to look at my essay on Marx that I have posted on my blog and that I lectured from early in the semester; you should get many hints from reading this essay first before answering this question, but it is not a requirement that you read this essay, only a strong recommendation:

2) What would the Marquis de Condorcet have to say about contemporary neoliberal capitalist society? Do you think he would approve? Why or why not? Is this the future he was thinking about and where he envisioned “progress” taking us? (Hint: Pointing to a few key sections of Ellwood and/or Cavanagh & Mander might help you map out this answer.)

3) Concisely outline where Melnyk’s four cooperative traditions – the Liberal Democratic Tradition, the Marxist Tradition, the Socialist Tradition, and the Communalist Tradition – would fit into Fontan & Shragge’s two major modes of thinking about the social economy? Which tradition do you support for the role of cooperatives in the Canadian social economy? Why? (Hint at answering this question, although you can use a different structure: Use one paragraph to define the two modes of the social economy as an alternative economic model, one paragraph to look at each tradition in light of your definition of the social economy, and the last paragraph for telling me which tradition you would support for the social economy in Canada and why.)

4) Which of the four cooperative models outlined by Melnyk in chapters 2-5 do you think is the most viable alternative economic model for overcoming Marx’s alienation and Hill’s treatment of the poor by property owners? In other words, which of the four models presented by Melnyk do you feel would be the best alternative for the working class to address the tensions and contradictions present in capital-labour relations? (Hint: Remember that “property owners” in a capitalist system, as Marx mentions in the “Critique of the Gotha Program,” also includes those that own the means of production and distribution. Also, Hill’s piece is in many ways mapping out how it came to be that the exclusion of the poor and the non-land owners from “the people” was a precursor – and historical foundation – for how the 19th and 20th centuries’ working classes were similarly excluded from the privileges enjoyed by capitalist business owners.)

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