What is Capitalism?

SOSC 1520 9.0

Assignment 1: Reading questions

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Reading: James Fulcher (2004). Capitalism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press), chapter 1: “What is capitalism?”, pp. 1-18.

Weight: 5% of course grade (each question is worth 1 mark)

Due date: 24th September


Instructions to students:

– answer each of the following questions as clearly and concisely;

– do not write anything which is not relevant to the question;

– keep within the word limit given in brackets after each question; you should be able to answer a question within that limit easily, so do not use the word limit as a target number of words;

– make sure that you write in full and grammatically correct sentences;

– each question refers to a particular part of the chapter, so give citations to the chapter for each answer. You do this by providing a citation, e.g. (Fulcher 2004, p. 7), if you are referring to material on page 7 of the chapter.

– if you quote the author of the chapter, that is, you use his exact words in your answer, then you require quotation marks at the beginning and end of the quoted passage as well as a citation. You do not have to quote the author to answer this question but you should be aware of the rules for quoting, as they will be important later in the course.


1) What, according to the author, James Fulcher, is the essential characteristic of capitalism? (Word limit: 25).

2) In the English cotton industry of the early nineteenth century, what was the main cost to a cotton manufacturer of producing cotton? (Word limit: 25)

3) What does the answer to the previous question imply about the source of conflict as industrial capitalism developed? (Fulcher 2004, p. 6)? (Word limit: 50)

4) What is “speculation”? Elucidate your answer with the example of housing – how can housing be used as a tool of speculation? (Word limit: 75)

5) What are the “means of production” in a capitalist society and who owns them? (Word limit: 50)