Topic outline

  • Economics for the 99%

    Welcome to the course SSC581 Introduction to Political Economy: Economics for the 99%

    “There is no royal road to science, and only those do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits.”         --Karl Marx

    Instructor: Zhongjin Li, Department of Economics, Umass Amherst


    Office Hours: 3-5pm Tue/Fri or by appointment, 207 Science Building

    • Introduction: The Economy and Economics

      Sep. 6


      --E4E, Introduction and Chs. 1 & 2

      • Economic History

        Sep. 10


        --E4E, Ch. 3

        --Karl Marx, Capital Vol. 1, ch. 31, “Genesis of the Industrial Capitalist”

        (Btw, this is a great website for Marxist readings! FYI.)

        --Susan George, “A Short History of Neo-liberalism: Twenty Years of Elite Economics and Emerging Opportunities for Structural Change”

      • History of Economic Ideas

        Sep. 13

        Readings: --Heilbroner, pp. 42-74 (Adam Smith), pp. 136-169 (Karl Marx)

        Sep. 17

        Readings: --Heilbroner, pp. 213-247 (Thorstein Veblen), pp.248-287 (John Maynard Keynes)

        Sep. 20

        Readings: --Heilbroner, pp. 288-310 (Joseph Schumpeter), pp. 311-322 (the End of the Worldly Philosophy?)

      • Class, Value and Profit

        Sep. 25, 28


        --E4E, Chs. 5 & 6

        --Bowles, Edwards, & Roosevelt, Understanding Capitalism, Ch. 5 & Ch. 6 (PDF)


      • Bosses and Workers

        Oct. 7, Oct.8


        --E4E, Chs. 7 & 8

        --FG, Chs. 1 & 2

        --Harry Braverman, Labor and Monopoly Capital, Ch. 4 (Scientific Management) & Ch. 5 (The Primary Effects of Scientific Management) (PDF)

        • Competition and Investment

          Oct. 8


          --E4E, Chs. 11 & 12

          • Unemployment and Business Cycles



            --E4E, Chs. 13 & 24

            --FG, Ch.9

            • Accumulation and Crisis

              Oct. 15


              -- Bowles, Edwards, & Roosevelt, Understanding Capitalism, Ch.7 (PDF)

              -- Hobsbawm, 1975., The Crisis of Capitalism in Historical Perspective. (PDF)

              --Weisskopf, “Sources of Cyclical Downtowns” (PDF)

            • Government and the Economy

              Oct.18 & 25


              --E4E, Chs. 19 & 20

              --FG, Ch. 5

              • Finance

                Oct.29 & Nov.1


                --E4E, Chs. 16, 17 & 18

                Nov. 5 "Capitalism, A Love Story"

              • Gender, Race and the Economy

                Part Three: Non-Class perspectives

                 Nov. 12


                --E4E, Ch. 9

                --FG, Chs.3 & 4

                --Julie Nelson, “Feminism, Economics, and Objectivity” (chs 1-3, PDF)

                --Power, “Women: From Home Production to Wage Labor” (PDF) 

                • Nature and the Economy

                  Nov. 15 


                  --FG, Ch. 8

                  --James K. Boyce, “Is Inequality Bad for the Environment?” (PDF)

                  --Foster, 2011, "Capitalism and Environmental Catastrophe" (PDF)

                  --Magdoff and Foster, “What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know about Capitalism” (recommended book)

                  TAKE-HOME MIDTERM IS due midnight Nov. 15 by email

                  • The Current Economic Crisis: Causes, Consequences, Policies

                    Part Four: Special Topics

                    Nov. 19



                    --Kotz, 2009., The Financial and Economic Crisis of 2008: A Systemic Crisis of Neoliberal Capitalism (PDF)

                    --Richard Wolff, "Capitalism Hits the Fan" (PDF)

                    -- Video (11 mins), David Harvey, Crises of Capitalism

                  • The Global Economy

                    Nov.22 & 26


                    --Handouts (to be posted)

                    --FD Ch. 10; E4E, Ch.21

                    --Participatory Games: Rice & Beans (international trade); Speculation Game (exchange rate)

                    --Yates, 2004., Poverty and Inequality in the Global Economy (PDF)

                    --Dollar & Sense, the ABCs of the Global Economy (PDF)

                    Nov. 29 Thanksgiving holiday

                    • Evaluating Capitalism; Reform



                      --E4E, Chs. 25, 26, & 27

                      • Evaluating Alternative Economic Systems



                        --Handouts (to be posted)

                        --Einstein, “Why Socialism?” (PDF)

                        --McChesney and Foster, “Capitalism, the Absurd System” (PDF)

                        Dec. 10 – Last Class. Paper Presentations.

                        Dec. 16 – Final papers due by 5 p.m. (Please email me at