POLIS 2107 - Passions and Interests: The History of Greed

North Terrace Campus - Semester 2 - 2024

The course attempts to solve the puzzle of how greed was transformed from a Deadly Sin (avarice) to a cool virtue. How could Gordon Gecko manage seduce his audience so easily in the movie Wall Street with his 'Greed is Good' speech? How did we get from there to here? The course will canvas seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth century responses to the emergence of market society and will trace the demise of classical, feudal and Renaissance idealism and the emerging 'bourgeois' mentality of the enlightenment era. The transformation of commercial activity from a base occupation to its culmination as a 'calling' is explored as part of an intellectual history of the legitimation of the idea of greed. This history will cover, among other things, an exploration of the following institutions, phenomena and ideas: self-interest; the division of labour; markets; luxury; the proper role of the state: liberalism and its critics; progress; virtue; classical communitarianism, anarchism, utilitarianism, classical political economy, the guaranteed basic income and the Grameen Bank. The course will conclude with a close study of the film Wall Street and a reflection on whether enlightened self-interest is enough to keep societies in motion. Featured thinkers include: Marcus Aurelius, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Mandeville, Adam Smith, Marx, Weber, Hayek, Fukuyama, Singer and van Parjis.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code POLIS 2107
    Course Passions and Interests: The History of Greed
    Coordinating Unit Politics and International Relations
    Term Semester 2
    Level Undergraduate
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 3 hours per week
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange Y
    Incompatible POLI 2017, POLI 2107, POLI 3017
    Assumed Knowledge At least 12 units of Level I undergraduate study
    Assessment Tutorial assessment 10%, Minor Essay 30%, Major Essay 60%
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Professor Lisa Hill

    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes

    No information currently available.

    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)

    Attribute 1: Deep discipline knowledge and intellectual breadth

    Graduates have comprehensive knowledge and understanding of their subject area, the ability to engage with different traditions of thought, and the ability to apply their knowledge in practice including in multi-disciplinary or multi-professional contexts.

    1 3 8 9 10

    Attribute 2: Creative and critical thinking, and problem solving

    Graduates are effective problems-solvers, able to apply critical, creative and evidence-based thinking to conceive innovative responses to future challenges.

    3 9 10

    Attribute 3: Teamwork and communication skills

    Graduates convey ideas and information effectively to a range of audiences for a variety of purposes and contribute in a positive and collaborative manner to achieving common goals.

    3 9 8 10

    Attribute 4: Professionalism and leadership readiness

    Graduates engage in professional behaviour and have the potential to be entrepreneurial and take leadership roles in their chosen occupations or careers and communities.


    Attribute 5: Intercultural and ethical competency

    Graduates are responsible and effective global citizens whose personal values and practices are consistent with their roles as responsible members of society.

    5 10

    Attribute 6: Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural competency

    Graduates have an understanding of, and respect for, Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander values, culture and knowledge.

    1 2 3 8 9 10

    Attribute 7: Digital capabilities

    Graduates are well prepared for living, learning and working in a digital society.

    6 7

    Attribute 8: Self-awareness and emotional intelligence

    Graduates are self-aware and reflective; they are flexible and resilient and have the capacity to accept and give constructive feedback; they act with integrity and take responsibility for their actions.

    1 9
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    A reading kit, containing the texts that need to be read prior to each tutorial discussion, will be available for purchase at the start of the course from the Image and Copy Centre.

    There is an extended reading list posted on myuni. Some extra articles for further reading will be posted online.

    Detailed Powerpoint slides for each lecture will be posted on myuni (usually prior to the lecture) as well as additional course material and readings.

    Chronology of Some Key Figures.
    Stoicism: 300 BC- 200 AD
    Epicurus c. 341–c. 270
    Gregory the Great: 540-604
    Niccolo Machiavelli: 1459-1517
    Thomas Hobbes: 1588-1679
    John Locke: 1632-1704
    Lord Shaftesbury (Anthony Ashley Cooper, Third Earl of Shaftesbury): 1671 to 1713.
    Bernard Mandeville: 1670-1733
    Francis Hutcheson: 1694-1746
    Benjamin Franklin 1706-1790
    Jean Jacques Rousseau: 1712 – 1778
    Adam Ferguson: 1723-1816
    Adam Smith: 1723-1790
    John Stuart Mill: 1806-1873
    Karl Marx: 1818-1883
    Emile Durkheim: 1858-1917
    Max Weber: 1864-1920
    John Maynard Keynes: 1883-1946
    Frederick von Hayek: 1899-1992
    Phillipe van Parijs 1951- F
    rancis Fukuyama: 1952-
    Grameen Bank: circa 1976.
    Wall Street: 1987
    Recommended Resources
    See my uni for further recommended resources.
    Online Learning
    Detailed powerpoint slides will be posted on myuniprior to each lecture.
    Additional course material will be posted on myuni.
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes

    No information currently available.


    No information currently available.

    Learning Activities Summary

    No information currently available.

  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary

    No information currently available.

    Assessment Detail

    No information currently available.


    No information currently available.

    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy (http://www.adelaide.edu.au/policies/101/) course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

  • Student Support
  • Policies & Guidelines
  • Fraud Awareness

    Students are reminded that in order to maintain the academic integrity of all programs and courses, the university has a zero-tolerance approach to students offering money or significant value goods or services to any staff member who is involved in their teaching or assessment. Students offering lecturers or tutors or professional staff anything more than a small token of appreciation is totally unacceptable, in any circumstances. Staff members are obliged to report all such incidents to their supervisor/manager, who will refer them for action under the university's student’s disciplinary procedures.

The University of Adelaide is committed to regular reviews of the courses and programs it offers to students. The University of Adelaide therefore reserves the right to discontinue or vary programs and courses without notice. Please read the important information contained in the disclaimer.