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A Macro Policy Catechism

Berkeley Political Economy Major Overview Document DRAFT

Political Economy Major Rationale:

The phrase "political economy" has at least four meanings:

  • the heir of Enlightenment moral philosophy, in the same sense that today's proper sciences are the heirs of Enlightenment natural philosophy.
  • the rubble left of the Marxist, Marxisant, and Marxizoid project of social analysis and utopian transformation after history bombed it until the rubble bounced throughout the twentieth century.
  • public choice--the largely right-wing application of the assumptions of methodological individualism and anomic psychological self-interest to the social sciences.
  • things that have too much politics to be economics, too much history to be politics, too much sociology to be history, and too much economics to be sociology.

Political economy here at Berkeley as an undergraduate major is a group of four interlinked intellectual bets:

  • that for undergraduates at least the separation a century ago of the social sciences into walled, warring camps was not a clear win.
  • that there is, nevertheless, great value in the individual social sciences' analytical modes and tools.
  • that there is even greater value in the classical social theory tradition as grappling for the first time how a modern human society--one not composed overwhelmingly of malnourished peasants living and dying early in the small villages in which they were born and one not dominated by louse-riddem thugs with spears and perfumed thugs with styluses--actually worked.
  • that the nineteenth and early twentieth-century social, political, and economic history of the North Atlantic provides an essential set of benchmarks, yardsticks, and comparisons.

To that end we make them take world history (IAS 45); a historical context course on the development of industrial soceties (like Hist. 160); political science (PS 2); economics (Econ 1, IAS 106, IAS 107); statistics (Stat 2); classical social theory (PEIS 100); modern political economy (PEIS 101); two years of foreign language; and five additonal courses--four of which must be related as a "concentration" to help them become semi-experts in some particular topic or issue area.

It is, as such programs often are, massively underfunded. It also, as such programs often do, works very well indeed.

Political Economy Major Requirements:


Before admission, students must:

  • attend a Major Declaration Workshop
  • complete IAS 45 with a grade of C+ or better
  • complete Econ 1 or 2 or C3 with a grade of C+ or better
  • have a major and cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher
  • not be in their final semester of undergraduate work.

Lower Division Requirements:

  • Economics 1 or 2 or C3 (prerequisite to declare; C+ or better)
  • IAS 45 (prerequisite to declare; C+ or better)
  • Political Science 2
  • Statistics 2, 20 or 21

Foreign Language Requirement:

Proficiency equivalent to four college-level semesters in any single modern language other than English, achieved through coursework (C- grade or higher), AP credit, examination, and/or study abroad. Check with the major for eligible languages.

Upper Division Conceptual Tools Requirement:

  • Microeconomics: IAS 106, Economics 100A, Economics 101A, or UGBA 101A
  • Macroeconomics: IAS 107, Economics 100B, Economics 101b 101B, or UGBA 101B
  • PEIS 100, Classical Theories of Political Economy (must be taken before PEIS 101)
  • PEIS 101, Contemporary Theories of Political Economy

Upper Division Historical Context Requirement:

  • One of PEIS 160, CRP 112, Econ 113, Econ 115, Hist 124a, Hist 124b, Hist 125b, Hist 131b, Hist 158c, Hist 159a, Hist 160, Hist 161, Political Science 122a, UGBA C172,

Upper Division Concentration Requirement:

The Political Economy major’s concentration requirement is an attempt to turn each student’s program into a major rather than a sprawling set of disconnected social science and history courses. The other major requirements ask students to learn a great deal of history and a great deal about the approved models, theories, and intellectual approaches of the different social sciences. The concentration requirement asks students to apply that theoretical and historical knowledge to an issue area in political economy.

The possibilities are wide open.

However, students’ concentrations tend to cluster into three groups: the political economy of "post-industrial" societies, "late industrialization and development," and "globalization" Students may--and are in fact encouraged to--simply pick courses from the recommended course list for one of these three groups in order to assemble their concentrations. Students are also strongly encouraged to take a particular flavor of the PEIS 101 course that is focused on the concentration group they have chosen.

  • Post-Industrial: Anthro 139, CRP 110, 112, 113a, Econ 105, 115, 121, 136, 151, 175, EEP/IAS 175, ERG 100/PP 184, Geog 110, 159a, Hist 118, 158C/159B, Legal 140, 145, 182, PP 101, 103, Poli Sci 122a, 138e, 138g, 144b, Soc 119, 122.

  • Late Development: Anthro 139, CRP 110, 112, 113a, 115, Econ 105, 115, 121, 151, 161, 162, 171, 173, 175, EEP 151, 152, 154, 175/IAS 175, ESPM 165, Geog 110, 112/DS 100, 123, 130, 159a, Hist 171c, IAS 115, Legal 140, 145, 161, PACS 135, PP 101,Poli Sci 128, 138e, 139b, 141c, 143a, 143b, 144b, 148a, 149e, Soc 172, 183, 187.

  • Globalization: Anthro 139, Chicano 159, Econ 105, 115, 121, 151, 181, 182, EEP 152, 154, ESPM 165, 169, Ethnic 135ac 136, Geog 123, 159a, GWS 141, 143, IAS 115, Legal 140. 145, 154, 179, PACS 135, PP 101, Poli Sci 124a, 138e, 138g, Soc 119, 146, 172, UGBA 118, 178.

Students who wish have the freedom to choose and develop their own concentrations: write a convincing two-paragraph explanation of how taking these courses will turn the student into an expert in some question or problem area in political economy--like "dilemmas of medical care cost control and resource allocation around the globe"; "religion and the state in early modern Europe and the contemporary Middle East"; or "the interaction between economic history and the history of economic thought since 1776."

Additional Course:

  • One additional course in the social sciences, ideally PEIS 194: "Capstone" Senior Seminar: Interdisciplinary research seminar in political economy for seniors. Intensive writing on interesting research questions in social science and public policy best approached from an interdisciplinary perspective. To provide seniors not writing honors theses with a "capstone" experience here at Berkeley...


  • Students with minimum GPAs of 3.5 cumulative and 3.6 in the major are eligible to join the honors program. Honors students write a prospectus in the fall IAS H102 honors methodology class, and then a thesis in the spring PEIS H195 seminar.


We also draw your attention to:

  • History 7b: History of the United States since 1865
  • IAS 102/C118: Scope and Methods of Research in International and Area Studies
  • IAS 120: Contemporary Mexico
  • IAS C175: The Economics of Climate Change
  • PEIS 150: Topics in Political Economy
  • PEIS 155: Developments in Approaches to Modern Political Economy
  • PEIS 192: Senior (Non-Honors) Thesis

Minor: European Studies Political Economy

  • PEIS 100, Classical Theories of Political Economy (must be taken before PEIS 101)
  • PEIS 101, Contemporary Theories of Political Economy
  • A concentration in the political economy of Europe approved by the advising staff. For approval, submit a convincing two-paragraph explanation of how taking these courses will turn the student into an expert in some question or problem area in the political economy of Europe--like "dilemmas of medical care cost control and resource allocation in western Europe since WWII"; "religion and the state in early modern Europe and the contemporary Middle East"; or "why did the western European economic growth miracle end in 1973?".

Why don't we have other regional studies political economy minors? As I understand it, purely for historical reasons.