links for 2007-08-29
Duncan Black Wants to Become a Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations

Political Economy 101: Introduction

Political Economy 101: Introduction:

Brad DeLong, U.C. Berkeley

This is--at least the way those who designed the major thought of it, which is often very different from how things work on the ground--the last core course for the political economy major.

Political economy, at least as we here at Berkeley define it, is a group of four interlinked intellectual bets:

  • that the separation a century ago of the social sciences into walled, warring camps was--at least for undergraduates and at least for bird's-eye understanding--a mistake.

  • that there is, nevertheless, great value in the individual social sciences' analytical modes.

  • that there is even greater value in the classical social theory tradition--that set of thinkers from Nicky Machiavelli to Barry Moore who we retrospectively identify as grappling for the first time how a modern human society--one not dominated by louse-riddem thugs with spears and perfumed thugs with styluses, and composed overwhelmingly of malnourished peasants living and dying early in the small villages in which they were born--actually worked.

  • that there is great value in studying the nineteenth and early twentieth-century history of western Europe and North America: Marx was wrong in claiming that the "more advanced" shows the "less advanced" the image of its own future, but they do provide a very useful set of benchmarks, yardsticks, and comparisons.

Now that was a mindful. Catch your breath and think about that for a while.

This course--the last core course--is supposed to be the payoff. This is where we cash in our winning intellectual bets, tie all the threads together, and come up with running code for a rough-and-ready framework for thinking about everything that happens at the crossroads where history and politics meet economies and sociologies in a world where village elders along the Zambezi lecture the principal deputy managing director of the Imternational Monetary Fund on the implications of the Republican convention.

However, each version of Political Economy 101 is different. We agree that these are winning intellectual bets. We do not agree on what the winnings are. My version of PE 101 is different from Bev Crawford's or Heath Pearson's or Dariush Zahedi's. This is, I think, a constructive tension. This is my version.

We are going to try to draw all the threads together by running the readings of this course along two tracks. One will gallop in a cursory and superficial way through the global history of the past century. The second, much meatier, track will consist of thinkers from Joey Schumpeter to Joey Stiglitz who try to use and develop both their disciplinary anlaytical modes and the classical social theory tradition to interpret and change the history in which they are embedded. We are going to read major chunks by nine such thinkers: Joseph Schumpeter, John Maynard Keynes, Karl Polanyi, Milton Friedman, Charles Lindblom, Benedict Anderson, James Scott, Jessica Stern, and Joe Stiglitz. I think these people are very smart, broadly right, and where they are wrong they are wrong in interesting ways. Four are economists (Schumpeter, Keynes, Friedman, and Stiglitz): I am an economist, after all, and they sing to me in the ways that others do not. Two are postmodern anthropologists (Benedict Anderson and James Scott). One is a sociologist (Karl Polanyi). One is a political scientist (Charles Lindblom). And one--Jessica Stern--is a combination of international relations specialist and cultural sociologist specializing in Al Qaeda studies. All are very much worth reading. Except for the first couple--which are online--their books are or should soon be at the bookstore and on reserve at Moffitt.

We will also have a bunch of other articles--online--to read, and my lecture notes--which should also be online week-by-week--covering both the thinkers and the history.

You can take a look at the grading policy.

Audio File