The Approaches seminars in Economy & Society cover authors, texts and concepts that are foundational for a theoretical and methodical understanding of socio-economic phenomena. The course material covers an interdisciplinary range of scholarly approaches and intellectual frameworks for understanding economic interactions and social coordination problems in a global frame of reference.
The Approaches seminars provide the foundation for subsequent work in the concentration and are the first step in the students’ academic trajectory towards the senior thesis. Students practice setting the agenda for inquiry, whether through group or individual presentations, formulating and refining a research project, through writing and other assignments, as well as identifying the appropriate means and resources to conduct research.
Political Economy of Growth and Development
This course introduces students in the Politics, Rights and Development concentration of Global Liberal Studies to approaches in the field of political economy. The course consists of three parts. First, the course highlights the intellectual origins of this line of inquiry with reference to classical political economy. These thinkers confront us with a rich tradition of competing visions of how capitalism functions. Contemporary socio-economic discussions continue to be shaped by the arguments and positions first put forward by writers such as Adam Smith, David Ricard, Thomas Malthus and Karl Marx.
Second, the course provides a critical introduction to the foundational concepts of conventional economic analysis. Textbook models of supply, demand, and market equilibrium are at the center of numerous discussions concerning public policy. Concepts such as opportunity costs and comparative advantage, while seemingly technical in their definition, convey particular implications when applied to questions of economic development.
Third, the course provides an introduction to contemporary approaches in global political economy. This set of interdisciplinary frameworks combines elements from political science, sociological and historical investigation, as well as economic analysis. The common thread running through the classical and contemporary literature on political economy is a deep, systemic preoccupation with the capitalist mode of production.
The Global Economy: Growth, Sustainability and the Environment
Global environmental threats such as climate change and fresh water constraints have gradually gained recognition as fundamental challenges to the sustainability of past and current rates of economic growth and improvements in living standards. The concept of sustainability has entered a prominent position in both global and local discourses and has taken a center stage in the development of new policies and theories that examine the relationships between human economic affairs and the planet’s biophysical limits. This course will introduce students to a set of interdisciplinary literature that addresses theoretical perspectives on the sustainability paradigm and the interrelationships between economic growth, human populations and the global environment, as well as their related policies. A considerable part of the course is dedicated to critically study the sustainable development approach as it has emerged as a leading intellectual framework used to investigate human-environment interactions as well as a normative outlook to recommend policies for a socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable world.