Campus Reformers: Clemson University's Institute for the Study of Capitalism blazes a trail in higher ed

The Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism approaches capitalism as a moral philosophy and takes students through a "Great Books" curriculum.

The Institute's one-of-a-kind Lyceum Scholars program has grown rapidly.

The Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism (CISC) teaches undergraduates about the moral and ethical underpinnings of this economic system. CISC’s Executive Director, Dr. C. Bradley Thompson, and Assistant Director, Petria Hoffpauir, spoke with Campus Reform about how their Lyceum Scholars and Lyceum Fellows programs give students a unique and enriching experience. 

Thompson explained, “Our particular focus is on the moral foundations of capitalism. And we think that is the single most important issue of our age. Because socialism is first and foremost a moral theory.” CISC’s courses reflect that focus. Titles include “Wisdom of the Ancients,” “Political Thought of the American Founding,” and “Great Books of the Western World,” among others. 

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The CISC’s study of capitalism goes beyond economics, making it distinct from other think tanks and academic centers. Hoffpauir said, “So many places will focus on prosperity of free markets, wealth creation, but we take seriously…the moral connection to that, and I think that’s what makes our curriculum and our program so special.”

The emphasis on morality runs throughout the program. “We want our young men and women to take the question of moral character seriously, and their own moral character in particular,” said Thompson, “because we believe that there is an infinite relationship between moral character and a free society.”

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The CISC has seen a sharp increase in demand. “This year, we had over 650 applications for only 20 spots,” Hoffpauir said, referring to the Lyceum Scholars program. She continued, “It’s grown exponentially, showing that there’s a serious demand for what we’re offering here with our curriculum and the mentorship and the moral education that we provide.” 

Thompson sees the CISC as an antidote to the problems present on so many college campuses today. “The fact of the matter is, we know that America’s universities and colleges are imploding, they’re imploding in part for ideological reasons, and parents don’t want t0 pay a hundred or two hundred thousand dollars for their children to receive this kind of indoctrination,” he said. 

Lyceum Scholars receive a $10,000 scholarship spread over four years, as well as a faculty mentor who guides them to relate classic philosophical ideas to their own lives. Lyceum Fellows, who do not receive a scholarship and take fewer specialized courses, still participate in the Great Books curriculum. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AngelaLMorabito