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Course Information

Instructor Info:Lynda Pickbourn
Term: 2014F
Meeting Info: Tuesday Thursday
10:30 AM - 11:50 AM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 107
10:30 AM - 11:50 AM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 107

Economic ideas and the policies that are informed by these ideas exert a major influence on many aspects of our lives. But where do economic ideas come from? This course explores the ideas of a selection of influential economists over the centuries and the social forces that shaped their thinking. A central goal of the course is to track the ways in which economic thought has developed historically both as a response to inadequacies of previous theory and as a reflection of new economic problems emerging as economies and societies evolve over time. A frequently recurring theme in the course is the question of whether capitalism is a social system that conduces toward social harmony or conflict. Other persistent themes include debates over the inherent stability or instability of capitalism, the reasons for income inequality and poverty, and the economic analysis of the individual, choice, and consumption. Major thinkers and schools of thought covered include Adam Smith, Thomas Robert Malthus, Karl Marx, the early Marginalists, the Neoclassicals, Thorstein Veblen, John Maynard Keynes and contemporary heterodox thinkers.

Course Objectives:

This course is designed to help you further develop your reading, writing, and critical thinking skills by exploring the ideas of these theorists.  The focus on comparative theory that we adopt in this class will compel us to grapple with the complexity of economic theorizing, as well as sharpen our abilities to think critically.

Evaluation Criteria:

Your evaluations (or grades for 5-college students) will be based on:

1. Evidence of having completed the assigned readings, as specified in the course calendar. This class is reading-intensive.  You should come to each class have done the reading assigned for that class.  If you think you will not have time to keep up with the readings, you should consider dropping the class.  Please bring copies of your readings and texts to class on the days they will be discussed.

2. Regular class participation. The class is based on discussion and debating of the ideas raised in the readings.  Regular, informed, and constructive class participation is very important: not only will it help you to engage critically with the material, it is essential for making this class a success; very little learning will take place without your commitment and active participation. You should come to class prepared and willing to discuss the assigned readings, respond to questions, and engage one another in intellectual conversation based on your knowledge of the assigned readings.  Respectful and constructive disagreements and debates are encouraged, and I particularly urge you to speak up when you disagree with me, or with an apparent consensus in the class, on a particular issue.

3. Responses to thought questions. Thought questions related to the reading assignment for each class are posted on the course calendar.  The purpose of these is to give you a head-start by requiring you to think about the readings prior to class.  You will be required to respond to each question with a paragraph or two (but no more than a page, typed, double spaced) and to post your response on the Moodle site by noon on the day prior to the class at which the readings will be discussed e.g. if the readings will be discussed on Sept 9, the response will be due on Moodle by noon on Sept 8. The focus of these thought questions is not on getting the ‘right answer’.  The readings are difficult, and you may or may not always understand them prior to class discussion.  These responses are intended to start you thinking about the reading, and to help you focus on the arguments being made.  Because I am not looking for the ‘right answer’ you will not in general receive individual feedback on your responses.  However, I will use them to determine whether or not you are keeping up with the readings, and making an effort to understand and engage with material.  Thus, the quality of your responses will be an important part of my final evaluation of your work in this class. They should be written with attention to grammar, spelling, organization etc and should demonstrate an effort to engage with the readings.


 If you miss four or more response papers, you will not receive an evaluation or a passing grade for the class.


4. Three term papers.  The due dates for these papers are indicated on the course calendar.  You will be required to turn in an outline as well as a preliminary draft of each paper.  The preliminary draft will be critiqued in class by your peers.  The purpose is for us to discover what ‘good writing’ requires, and to learn how to critically evaluate our own work, and that of others.  You will each receive credit in your evaluations for reviewing a colleague’s paper, and giving meaningful feedback.


You will then revise your preliminary draft based on the comments and feedback you receive from your colleagues.  In addition to turning in your final draft, you will turn in your outline, preliminary draft, your colleague’s feedback, as well as a sheet describing the revisions you made to your paper, and indicating how you responded to the feedback you received. 


Each paper should be 4-6 pages in length, typed, double-spaced, 12-point font.  All sources should be properly referenced.  All direct quotations (including quotes from documents or web-based materials) should appear within quotation marks, with the source attributed.


All work is due on the stated date. I will not accept late work unless you have contacted me ahead of time, with a legitimate and documented reason, and we have agreed on an alternate due date.



Additional Info:

You should expect to spend about 8-10 hours per week outside class time on this course. 

 GRADING (for 5-college students):

Peer Review and Class Participation: 10%

Response papers: 30%

Short Papers: 60%



Absences: If you must miss a class for medical, family or other reasons, it is your responsibility to notify me beforehand, when possible, and to provide official documentation e.g. a doctor’s note when you return to class.  If you fail to provide acceptable documentation for four or more missed classes, you will not receive an evaluation for the class. 


Cell phones, lateness etc.: If you come in late or must leave early, try to do so without disrupting the class.  Turn your cell phone off or place it on silent mode before each class session. Please do not engage in text messaging/web browsing or other cell-phone/internet related activity during class