PEIS 100: Classical Theories of Political Economy

Course Rationale:

"Political Economy" is that bloody crossroads where economics, politics, history, and culture meet. Economics deals with the production and distribution of wealth. Politics deals with how we decide what our collective purposes are and implement them, or how we oppress each other. History is the record of what people have done and suffered, and tells us what sets of politico-economic arrangements have succeeded and failed in the past. And culture determines both what kinds of things people think are worth doing--what they value--and also what will be the modalities of human interaction on top of which politics and economics are built.

How are we to think about issues of "political economy" in the context of modern industrial societies--or, rather, in the context of modern societies, for almost every society today is industrial or post-industrial? This course bets that a two-pronged history-of-societies and history-of-ideas approach is our best bet. It focuses, first, on the Enlightenment-era theoretical underpinnings of the doctrines of political and economic liberalism that have molded modern liberal capitalist democracy. It focuses, second, on the historical development of the ideas--liberal theory--and of the institutions--political democracy and the market economy--that have led us to modern liberal capitalist democracy. Along the way it explores the ideas and social movements that have challenged modern liberal capitalist democracy over the past two centuries.

Syllabus Outline:

INTRODUCTION: SETTING THE SCENE Benjamin Barber, "Jihad Vs. McWorld"; Francis Fukuyama, "Have We Reached the End of History?"; Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel (New York: Norton, 1997), pp. 13-52.

LIBERAL THEORIES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY: Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau; Smith and Ricardo  

HISTORICAL ANTECEDENTS OF LIBERALISM: Feudalism and Its Discontents (Pirenne and Poggi); Absolutism (Perry Anderson and Paul Kennedy); Mercantilism, Reformation, and War (Karl Polanyi, Christopher Hill)

THE RISE OF THE LIBERAL STATE: Tocqueville; Barrington Moore, Social Origins; Gianfranco Poggi, The Development of the Modern State; Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers; Albert Hirschman, The Passions and the Interests.

THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION: Karl Polanyi, Great Transformation; Max Weber, Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism; Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class; Eric Hobsbawm.

LATE INDUSTRIALIZATION: Alexander Gershenkron, "Economic Backwardness in Historical Perspective"; Friedrich List, Political Economy; Alexander Hamilton, "Opinion as to the Constitutionality of the Bank of the United States" and "Report on Manufacturing"; Thomas Jefferson, "Opinion against the Constitutionality of a National Bank," "The Rights of each Generation".

CHALLENGE AND RESPONSE: Marx; Schumpeter; Eugen Weber, Peasants into Frenchmen; Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities; Arendt, "The Alliance of Mob and Capital"; Hobson, Imperialism; William Pfaff, "Reflections on the Absence of Empire"; Kindleberger, The World in Depression; Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace; Linz, Fascism: A Reader's Guide.