Topic outline

  • General

  • Topic 1

    U.S. Capitalism

    Spring 2012

    We live in interesting and challenging economic times. Although the recession has ended by official measurements, we face persistent high unemployment, flat or declining incomes for most people, increasing inequality, and great suffering. These are also times of great opportunity and great transition: we need to reimagine the role of government in the economy, rethink the relationship between workers and employers, and reconsider global economic relations.


    This course offers an historical, institutional, and theoretical introduction to the U.S. economy, its problems and prospects. You are invited to 1) become familiar with the essential features of the U.S. economy and of the broad trajectory of capitalist development, 2) understand the basic elements of macroeconomic analysis, and 3) develop and defend policy approaches to current economic challenges.

    • Topic 2

      Readings, Assignments, and Other Things You Want to Know

      First class meeting:  Harvey covers a lot of territory.  At least some of this will be unfamiliar to you, and you may find it difficult.  Harvey doesn't always explain the graphs as well as he might.  Not to worry.  Keep a list of unfamiliar terms and ideas you encounter, and we will take them up in class.  My interest in having you look at the Bain piece is to have you get a completely different take on the trajectory of capitalism;  you needn't read this in all its detail, but pay attention to overall coverage, intended audience, general point of view.  OK, see you Tuesday.  Email with questions.

      February 6 Assignment:  spend a reasonable amount of time gathering some recent information on the distribution of income and/or wealth in the U.S.  Look for information that is current and authoritative, preferrably data sets or analyses rather than isolated claims buried in news articles. (However, sometimes a buried tidbit will lead you to a richer data source.) I have provided some links on the page below to several sources of data on inequality.  I added some new links on Saturday

      Be prepared to share what you have found in class, and write a one-page summary to submit.  Thanks.

      • Topic 3

        News Links and Assignment

        Note: Changes made Feb 12:

        By Sunday each week, I will post two news links in the forum below.  You should read both articles and, before class-time on Thursday,  a) post a brief abstract (about two substantive paragraphs) for one of them, or b) post a substantive comment/response to a posted abstract, or c) submit your abstract to me in class.  You may instead submit an abstract of an article you find, if you get my permission by Tuesday. 

        In addition, you should take turns claiming the posted articles (by replying to the relevant post) and prepare to lead a very brief discussion in class on Thursday.  Given class size, you should plan to do this twice during the semester.