Colloquium on the Morality of Capitalism

Colloquium on the Morality of Capitalism
27-29 October 2012, The Emerald Forest, Goa, India

Theme: The Morality of Capitalism

The past debates about the merits of free market capitalism versus socialism centred largely on the question of which one would produce goods and services in most abundance to the masses.  However, after a century of experience and refined economic reasoning, few question capitalism's superiority in production of material abundance.  Instead, the debate for the hearts and minds of the public rests more than ever on moral issues.

  • Is capitalism merely efficient at producing goods and services, or is it also moral?
  • Is capitalism moral because it achieves the greatest good for the greatest number or because it protects each person's right to choose what to do with his or her own life?
  • Is there a conflict between private interest and the welfare of "society"?
  • What is the social responsibility of business in a market economy?
  • Finally, how does the answer to these questions bare on current issues in India?
Many have offered their thoughts on the moral justifications of capitalism. The readings for this Colloquium will be drawn from great thinkers in this tradition.

What is the Colloquium?

CCS Colloquium is a two-day residential program and forum for in-depth discussion centred on a chosen theme. The Colloquium provides participants an opportunity to disentangle themselves from the distractions of everyday life to reflect on issues of fundamental and enduring importance. Our hope is that participants will go on to share their advanced understandings and to develop innovative ideas and approaches for the advancement of liberalism today.

Unlike a traditional conference in which some lecture and others listen, participants at the Colloquium explore a specified theme together by discussing texts they have read in advance. Their shared inquiry is guided by a facilitator who offers probing questions and helps to keep things moving, but who does not lecture or advocate for any specific interpretation of the texts.  The purpose of the discussions is not to convey doctrine or to drive home certain pre-conceived conclusions but to challenge participants to examine, refine, and develop their own ideas by engaging with others interested in the same issues.

The discussions at the Colloquium are relaxed but maintain an air of formality.  Participants are encouraged to listen attentively to one another's thoughts and concerns and to ask questions of the text and of each another as a way of deepening their understanding of the issue and of each other.

Participants are also required to follow certain rules: they must speak one at a time, have the text in their minds and on the table in front of them, and are expected to support their assertions with reasoned argument and evidence from the text. During the formal discussions, participants are also required to keep their references to things that have been read in common or that are common knowledge. No technical jargon or specialized background knowledge is admitted. The purpose of restriction is to ensure that "reason is the only authority" and that everyone can think for themselves and judge what is being discussed. During the breaks and social time, however, participants are encouraged to share their background knowledge while they continue to debate and discuss the issues raised in the formal conversations. The informal time also provides an opportunity to network and meet new people and have fun.

How does it Work?

The Colloquium will select 20 participants from various backgrounds such as think tanks, academia, media, government and NGOs.

Some of the participants will be invited directly by CCS without application and others will be selected from a pool of interested applicants on a competitive basis.

We will distribute the Colloquium Reader, a selection of articles or chapters by various authors, to the chosen participants two months in advance.  Participants are required to read and reflect on these texts carefully before the Colloquium as they serve as the foundation for the shared inquiry discussions.  Participants are responsible for the content of the discussions, thus the quality of the program depends entirely on their thorough preparation.

Six discussion leaders will be chosen from among the participants to be discussion leaders for each session.

In order to participate, one must be able to attend the entire Colloquium (Check in: 12 pm on 27 October, Check out: 12 pm on 30 October).The formal program will begin with an opening dinner reception on 27 October and will end with a closing dinner on 29 October. Participants may choose to leave after dinner on 29 October.

Application Process

Eligibility: Professionals with domain knowledge, experience or interest on the chosen theme of the Colloquium from corporate, think tanks, development sector, government, academia or the media are eligible. Participants can get nominated by their organizations or apply directly.

Registration Fee:The fee for the colloquium is Rs 3000, which includes all meals and a three-night stay at the venue. This fee is payable upon selection, and payment can be made online or through cheque (Travel costs are not included – participants must make their own arrangements).