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Course Information

Instructor Info:Sue Darlington
Office Extension x5600
Helen Scharber
Office Extension x5397
Term: 2013S
Meeting Info: Tuesday Thursday
02:00 PM - 03:20 PM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 108
02:00 PM - 03:20 PM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 108

What is Buddhist economics? How does it compare to modern, mainstream economic and capitalist thought? Existing economic systems do not seem to be sustainable, for the planet or for the majority of people in the world. Based on the philosophy of utilitarianism, mainstream economics claims to seek the greatest good for the greatest number. In theory, this approach sounds appealing, but in practice it translates to producing and consuming as much stuff as possible, without regard to who does and does not get to participate. Buddhism offers a different philosophy and set of potential economic practices, seemingly more suitable for environmental and social sustainability. In this course, we will critically compare different economic systems and philosophies, exploring interpretations and practices, grounding them in socio-economic and political contexts, and how they deal with issues of socio-political power and social justice. We will use case studies to compare and contrast how value is assigned, and how abstract economic ideas may be put into practice and what obstacles they face. We will explore different forms of development, from the international model and various alternative approaches. Why do most countries in the world subscribe to a Western notion of economics and its set of values? Could a Buddhist economic model provide greater well-being for more people? Is a Buddhist economics possible?

Course Objectives:
  • Compare orthodox economic philosophy and practice to Buddhist economic philosophies and practices
  • Assess the strengths and weaknesses of these traditions
  • Analyze various practices through the lens of Buddhist economics
  • To learn to research and use sources critically in building an analytical argument.
Evaluation Criteria:

Assignments include reading, writing, and project-based work.  We expect readings to be done thoughtfully and critically before the class date for which each assignment is listed as discussion is largely based on the readings.  Students will be expected to participate in discussions. 

All articles are available online through the Moodle course web site.  You should bring them with you to class the day we are discussing them.  The book is available through Food for Thought Bookstore, 106 N. Pleasant Street, Amherst, MA, Tel: 413-253-5432, and also on Reserve in the Hampshire library. 

 Darlington, Susan M.  2012.  The Ordination of a Tree: The Thai Environmental Movement. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Written Assignments:  All written assignments are due at the beginning of the class for which they are listed below.  We do not accept late papers without prior permission.  Papers must be typed, double-spaced and proofread, with page numbers, and saved as either a Word or RTF document only.  Please plan ahead for printing your papers so that you don’t have last minute computer problems.  You should always spell-check and proofread your assignments before turning them in.

Evaluations:  To receive an evaluation for the course, you must complete all assignments on time and make satisfactory progress on the course learning goals.  We expect a lot of writing and class participation.  If you miss more than three class meetings, you must document the reason for your absence.  (If you miss a significant number of class meetings, you may not get an evaluation.)  Remember:  Communication with us about your status in the class can help you meet the course goals and do well in this course.  We do not give Incompletes unless negotiated before assignment due dates, including the final paper and portfolio.

Additional Info:

*Plagiarism:   Plagiarism is the presentation of another person’s ideas or words as if they were your own, without acknowledging the source.  Plagiarism is a serious offence, and can result in either No Evaluation for the course or even disciplinary withdrawal from the College.  As you write your papers, you must be sure to cite your sources thoroughly and correctly, whether you are quoting directly or paraphrasing.  Ignorance of plagiarism is not an excuse.  If you are ever uncertain as to whether doing something is technically plagiarism, you should ask.  You should also consult with writing reference manuals for correct citation and bibliographic formats, including for citing Internet sources.