If you watch the video, you'll see that it consists of a (mock) portrait of a terribly earnest and engaged discussion among high school students about the definition of "capitalism." They use, as an example, a visit to Mr. Brown's grocery store to buy "weenies" for the class weenie roast. After arguing vigorously (and letting us see their visit to his store) they come up with the following list of defining features of "capitalism":
(1) Private Property
(2) Profit motive
(4) Freedom of contract
(5) Government-enacted laws granting rights (including certain Constitutional rights) to items #1 and #4
And, they conclude, that (1)-(5) adds up to (6) "Free Enterprise" (which, of course, is a much more attractive sounding term than "capitalism.") (Incidentally, #5 is a rather sophisticated observation-- at least relative to what most economists generally discuss. Certainly they failed to recall it when administering so-called "shock therapy" to the former Soviet Union.)
After playing this video in my class, I listed these features on the blackboard. I asked my students: Is there anything else you'd add? Or does this seem like an extensive, and exhaustive, list?
I confine my comments to Mark's use of this video in teaching his history of thought class.
I have purposely never addressed the issue of defining capitalism in my teaching. You may think that's odd given that I've taught a course in American economic history, but in that course I found it much more helpful to instead pose different accounts of the rise or success of capitalism and then debate the rigor of the various arguments. In this way, for example, we were able to poke holes in both leftist accounts of proletarianization, as well as rightist accounts of the rise of a liberal democratic society in the U.S. by the early 1800s.
Basically, in the quote above I think Mark goes too far in assuming some of the traits presented in the video as given. Competition, for example, is not a cornerstone of all "free enterprise systems," as Schumpeter pointed out and of course many before him (Schumpeter's is the account I am most familiar with in detail). But, whatever -- debating whether capitalist institutions really are efficient is not the point of my argument. I assert that there is a much larger point to be made about assumptions, other than the apparent inconsistency between what ideology says is capitalism, and what it really is. The larger point to be made is in how Mark relates propaganda's discussion of capitalism to how capitalism is defined by others.
We need to consider two related points. First, bourgeois ideology has its own definition of capitalism. Second, many academics (left and right) also have their own definition of capitalism. What does it all mean for teaching what capitalism is? By playing in bourgeois ideology's sandbox, Mark's "lesson on capitalism" implicitly accepts the first point and disregards the second, which compromises the strength of the lesson learned. Surely the students still get the main point that the propaganda is "biased" by not discussing wage labor as a central institution of capitalism -- but biased against what? The simple inclusion of wage labor, alongside the other 5 properties of capitalism or a free enterprise system? Is that the model Mark adopts? Mark does not tell us, but it seems implied that this reference point is precisely the one chosen by him.
I argue that the failure to coherently present an alternative model when attacking the mainstream one is one of the biggest weaknesses of heterodox teaching. I might be going too far in grilling Mark here -- and I hope he calls me out for doing so -- but as teachers, it seems like the best we can do is get out of bourgeois ideology's sandbox and start levelling critiques from the standpoint of the rigor of all definitions and arguments concerning capitalism. Doing so will poke holes in all the arguments, but it will also allow the students to gain familiarity with various perspectives, allowing students to judge for themselves.
This is not a "bias-free" method -- each instructor will nevertheless be more difficult on certain positions that are against his or her political leanings. But I think that recognizing that there are many different definitions of capitalism is an important first step at deconstructing "dominant" paradigms.
One final point. It appears that toward the end of his post, Mark does begin to discuss some of the historical origins of wage labor, and how unnatural it is. He remarks that Polanyi discusses wage labor as an absurd condition of modern society. Is this the alternative model of capitalism Mark has in mind?