Comparative Economic Systems
Economics 321 Fall 2007  Thursday 1:00-3:50 PM

Course Description
Dr. Satya J. Gabriel 
Professor of Economics
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Course Objectives
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Term Paper



"There is no fundamental contradiction between socialism and a market economy. The problem is how to develop the productive forces more effectively. We used to have a planned economy, but our experience over the years has proved that having a totally planned economy hampers the development of the productive forces to a certain extent. If we combine a planned economy with a market economy, we shall be in a better position to liberate the productive forces and speed up economic growth." Deng Xiaoping

Course Description and Introduction:

This is a seminar course in the comparative analysis of variant types of capitalist and non-capitalist social formations and the transition of social formations from one set of prevalent characteristics to a new and radically different set.  This question of transition is not simply an issue of description.  Reality is not naturally broken down into discrete sets of phenomena such that the concepts we use in analysis are obvious and universal to all social scientists.  Social formations are comprised of a potentially infinite set of distinct combinations of characteristics.  How do we decide on a finite set of characteristics useful in helping us achieve a better understanding of the social formation/society and how it is changing over time? 

We come to the project of understanding social formations (and that aspect of the social formation described as economic processes) having been trained to see specific aspects of reality as coherent processes, events, relationships, objects, subjects.  We learned to see certain things when we learned distinct languages.  As seminar students, you have also been exposed to at least one economic theory.  Theory (also referred to as theoretical framework or paradigm) provides us with a rigorous language of analysis by which we can consistently and non-arbitrarily see or recognize sets of characteristics and to relate these sets of characteristics (concepts) in a logical and consistent fashion.  Theory is a language that attempts to achieve coherence and non-ambiguity.  In one sense, using the terms "social formation" and "capitalist" simply implies a language (and not necessarily a theory) within which these words carry some sort of meaning, which could be metaphorical or otherwise ambiguous, evoking multiple meanings, and/or inconsistent.  However, if these terms are to be used to produce an unambiguous, distinct, and consistent meaning, from which we may produce an understanding of the way society works (to use Veblen's phrase, to increase our "useful knowledge") then the terms must reside within a particular theoretical framework that will be deployed for this purpose.  The theoretical framework that most economics students are taught in introductory and intermediate microeconomics (and, to a significant extent, in similar macroeconomics courses) is called neoclassical economics (although the influence of neoclassical economics is not as consistent in the macro context, the trend has been to remove non-neoclassical elements from macro over time, moving it consistently in the direction of its theoretically purer microeconomic cousin and, simultaneously, away from the unique contributions of Keynes and others to the macro paradigm).  Why not just use neoclassical eocnomics in comparative economic systems?  Firstly, comparative economic systems requires an explicit recognition of the existence of multiple economic systems, understood to be alternatives and treated as non-prejudicially as possible.  Neoclassical theory has no such conception of systems.  At best, the neoclassical framework has been used to pose a bipolar world of market based societies/economies and non-market-based societies/economies.  The gross simplicity of this dichotomy generates a monochromatic understanding of economic systems that loses much of the richness in the actual societies that have comprised human history and that exist in the present moment, much less any ability to speculate on future societies/economies.  Secondly, this simplistic understanding of the nature of societies/economies allows for only two possible transitions: a transition into a market-based society and a transition away from a market-based society.  The economic and social science literature has been much richer than this for most of its history.  It appears to be a backwards step to reduce the complexity of comparative economic systems and systemic transitions to the bipolarity allowed for within the neoclassical paradigm.  For example, it is not difficult to find within the non-neoclassical economics literature complex descriptions of feudal societies that have undergone transitions to capitalist societies and petty commodity producing societies that have undergone transitions to feudalism and/or capitalism.  And how can anyone understand the history of the United States without also understanding the dynamics of a transition from a slave society (that was largely a free market society) to a society where slavery is illegal, no matter what the dominant form of post-slave production?  Thirdly, neoclassical economic theory is tainted by its primary function as a polemical device arguing in favor of the notion that relatively unfettered market transactions result in a non-exploitative society.  This assumption (marginal productivity theory) is foundational within the neoclassical paradigm. Indeed, neoclassical theory was a response to the work of Marx and others following Marx who argued that a society based on the wage labor contract where workers are dispossessed of the means of production resulted in exploitation (understood as a form of legitimized theft).  Marx's criticisms of capitalism, in particular (he also criticized slavery and feudalism as exploitative systems), posed a serious challenge to the social order that was rapidly taking hold in the industrialized world.  Neoclassical economic theory became a weapon in fighting against this iconoclasm.  As social scientists we must adopt a less polemical position, recognizing that, among the distinctions within societies, is the relative degrees to which institutional structures and relationships foster or impede this social phenomenon called exploitation.  It is not science to presume it away prior to conducting the analysis, as is the case with the neoclassical paradigm. 

We should also be aware, however, that traditional courses in comparative economic systems (CES) were products of Cold War polemics: economic systems were categorized based upon the officially recognized distinction between an idealized set of dominant politico-economic institutions of the NATO countries (the "West") and a similarly idealized set of dominant politico-economic institutions of the CMEA countries (the "East").  The basic dichotomy generated by this polemic was an outgrowth of the neoclassical paradigm: the dichotomy between "free market" or "market capitalist" economies and "command" or "command socialist" or "centrally planned" economies.  The distinction was meant to be absolute: thesis counterposed to anti-thesis.  While it is undeniable that the experiment in centralized, command planning in the USSR and the larger CMEA was both noteworthy and distinct from the more decentralized planning in USA-style capitalism, it is a stretch to go from this particular distinction to the idea that these two examples of social formations had nothing in common (both in terms of social institutions and processes, especially the underlying class processes occurring within CMEA and NATO firms). Command elements in the NATO politico-economic social structures were largely or completely ignored, as were similarities in the underlying economic relationships within NATO and CMEA firms (including both command and central planning aspects, even if in microcosm, and common class processes).  This dichotomy further ignores the flexibility of capitalism and the constantly changing mix of state intervention (into market exchange relationships, the conditions shaping worker freedoms and unfreedoms, firm governance, etc.), including occasional direct state involvement in productive investment and production even in the most liberal NATO member states, such as the U.S.A., during certain historical periods when "free market" approachs are deemed insufficient to resolve economic crises.  Early in the semester, we will discuss alternative theoretical approaches to understanding the former Soviet Union (and other CMEA nations), including alternative versions of Marxian theory. 

The number of concepts relevant to conducting comparative economic systems and economic transition research and analysis is rather large and we should not anticipate finding any singular paradigm that satisfies all possible research questions.  Institutional economists, Marxists, the German Historical School, post-Hegelians, Marxists, and others have all tackled questions of typology of social formations/societies and the issue of transition, positing a wide range of concepts relevant to such analyses.  In this course, we are open to exploring any and all of them.  We will not presume a concept is useless, unless it is proven to be so.  Nevertheless, we are restricted to utilizing concepts that can be gleaned from the broad economics literature or that tiny subset that we will read and discuss in this class.  If any student wants to expand our reading in order to add to this set of concepts, logics, modes of analysis, etc., she should feel free to do so.  This course will be approached in as open-minded a way as is possible, given the constraints of developing a basic shared language of debate and analysis.  One exception to this open-mindedness is the issue of ontology.  We will share, at least in the context of course debate and your course presentation(s) and paper, the overdeterminist ontological position which argues in favor of the necessary significance of all phenomena.  In other words, if it exists, whether in material or idea form, then it is a significant factor in shaping social dynamics and change.  We will take this ontological position as axiomatic.  Thus, no one need worry that there argument about the significance of factor X will be dismissed, so long as factor X can be shown to exist.

Furthermore and in keeping with the attempt to develop some common linguistic rules, one concept that will be given particular weight in the discourse, although we will avoid assuming this concept is somehow more important than other useful concepts, is the concept of class processes.  Class processes are based on a particular subset of economic relationships and served a role in most early attempts at typology and transitions analysis.  Nevertheless, during the Cold War CES period, the concept of class largely disappeared from the economics discourse (or was bastardized to the point of losing any unique and unambiguous meaning).  How has it been possible to debate economic systems without reference to class processes (an historically important concept in exploring the differences and similarities between societies and probably one of the earliest concepts to be used in comparative economic systems and transition research)?  Prior definitions of capitalism, feudalism, self-employment (ancientism or economic individualism), and communism (in particular those based upon different systems for the production and appropriation of surplus labor, rather than the Proudhonian notion of capitalism and socialism as based upon the ownership of means of production --- which Marx labeled "utopian socialism") were ignored by authors of mainstream textbooks in CES.  (Indeed, these textbooks even ignored the "power essentialist" approach of such notable social analysts as Raya Dunayevskaya, C.L.R. James, Rudolf Hilferding, and Charles Bettelheim, all of whom argued that the Soviet Union was a variant form of capitalism.)  Instead, additional (and related) dichotomies were created based upon idealized features of the West and East: most notably, allocation (market versus command) and ownership (private versus state).  Ironically, not only did this analytical bipolarism result in an inability to recognize a much wider range of economic systems (how are we to distinguish, for instance, the free market capitalism of the New England states from the free market family farms of the West during the early history of the USA or both of these from the free market slavery of the ante-bellum South?), but also blinded CES specialists to important similarities (such as those focused upon by the "power essentialists" mentioned above, as well as surplus labor appropriation similarities) between certain NATO and CMEA social formations.

And most CES texts tended to presume a one-to-one correlation between "socialism" and command political processes (undemocratic processes of decision and rule making).  Again, this was a case of polemics overshadowing science: it would have been relatively easy for the authors of CES texts to find substantial evidence, in both the academic literature and in real world institutions and political organizations, for a tradition of "democratic socialism," including such mainstream political parties as the Swedish Social Democratic Party and such social theorists as Eduard Bernstein (see his text Evolutionary Socialism, 1961).  It would also not be difficult to find clear evidence for the compatibility of command and capitalism in such historical social formations as Nazi Germany, apartheid South Africa, Pinochet's Chile, or even the pre-Civil Rights Era former confederate states of the U.S.A.  And all capitalist firms, whether within the NATO or CMEA territorial boundaries, state, public shareholder or privately owned, were organized non-democratically and provided workers with no ownership rights to the fruits of their labor (to make a point that John Locke wrote about before the United States existed).  A significant number of economists, most notably Samuel Bowles, Richard Edwards, David Gordon, Michael Reich, and Thomas Weisskopf, have written about the command structure of capitalist firms for many years.

To be fair, many CES textbooks mentioned such phenomena as indicative planning, a form of non-command central planning that played a critical role in the post-World War II success of Japan and is part of the "Japanese model" followed by such countries as South Korea, Taiwan, and Malaysia.  The authors might also have added the various central planning agencies existing in even the most anti-planning (at least in polemical terms) NATO social formations, such as the U.S. Federal Reserve and similar central authorities for planning monetary variables.  Nevertheless, these deviations are always taken as relatively unimportant exceptions to a supposed ideal "free market" capitalism, and certainly not indications of similarities to the anti-ideal of "command socialism."  In other words, the absolutes rule!

And there is no question that the West versus East dichotomy was oppressively absolute within this Cold War framework.  Thus, the collapse of the CMEA governments created a crisis within the traditional field of comparative economic systems (CES).  However, this seminar (since its inception in 1989) has diverged sharply from the traditional Cold War approach to the teaching of CES, and has taken the unique path of treating the study of economic systems as a scientific problem, rather than an exercise in polemics.  Therefore, systemic differences (and similarities) are not presumed but are the subject of analysis.  We begin by defining the objects and processes linking the objects of our concern, examine the evidence, from the present and/or the past, using our carefully defined object/concepts and non-deterministic logic, and see where it takes us.  In this spirit, each course has begun with an intense exploration of the theoretical frameworks within which systemic difference can be analyzed, including a careful examination/construction of the definitions necessary to such analysis.

Part of the problem with CES is really a larger problem with the economics profession. Economics is not a pure science. It is strongly influenced in its language, concepts, and logic by having served, from its origins, an ideological role as defender of the status quo. This status quo includes a determinate institutional structure. This institutional structure is comprised of social relationships and processes that need to be objectively examined in CES analysis. And this structure of social relationships is presumed to be both natural and superior to any alternative set. This is not demonstrated, it is embedded in the logic of the theory. To make matters worse, the structure of social relationships (and human psychology) that serves as the foundation for the neoclassical theory (the basis of the logic) leaves out much of reality and posits a reality that is, in most instancts, not really there at all (or is oversimplified to the point of becoming a fantasy). However, to objectively analyze the attributes of social formations for the purpose of locating significant differences in economic systems (producing the necessary typology of economic systems), one must not presume away any aspect of reality or presume its insignificance, much less make up attributes (of social relations or individuals) that are unproven or, as is often the case, have been proven to be false by other sciences or non-mainstream economists). Indeed, to be scientific about CES analysis means to be open to uncovering surprises in the systemic differences between social formations, including systemic differences that have occurred within any given social formation over time (for example, the presence of significant transitions from one type of social formation to another in the United States). It also means being open to the possibility that alternative structures to those present in the United States or any other social formation may be found to be "superior" in some sense. The contradiction should be clear. An economist who is trained to defend the status quo cannot simultaneously produce an objective analysis of that status quo and alternatives to that status quo.

Making use of the post-structuralist ontology of overdetermination, we will rethink economic phenomena and economic systems as the product of the complex interaction of cultural, political, environmental, and economic processes.  Thus, while economics is our starting point, we necessarily (because of employing an open theoretical framework) must discuss the role of cultural, political, and environmental processes in shaping economic differences between social formations. CES analysis is grounded in the creation of meaningful categorical differences between national economies (economies that are already differentiated on the basis of political boundaries).  Such categorical differences might be based on a wide range of factors, including, but not limited to, i) property relationships, ii) market relationships, iii) class relationships, and, iv) relative involvement of the state in economic relationships.  The first possible categorical difference can itself be subdivided between a) property relationships involving control over the economic enterprise or firm or b) property relationships involving control over the output of economic enterprises or firms.  The other categories are also amenable to subdivisions.  The third possible categorical difference, class relationships, involves answering the questions of who produces and who appropriates and distributes economic surpluses and by what social mechanism is this arrangement made possible.  However, different economic theories produce different understandings of what is an "economic surplus."  Thus, within the course we will need to explore both the question of how do we define difference and how do we understand the concepts upon which that defined difference is based.  These are interesting and provocative issues and students should be prepared to debate them in the seminar.  Students will also need to understand these issues sufficiently to produce a semester paper and to make a class presentation related to this semester paper.

When is ownership important?  What kinds of ownership are important? Why does it matter if the direct producer (worker) has an ownership stake in the goods she produces? How are agency costs implicated in the problems of state-owned enterprises and are these agency costs significantly different than the ones found in corporations with widely dispersed public shareownership? What is the role of the state in shaping differences and similarities between existing (and historic) economic systems? What is the role of cultural institutions and processes, such as nationalism and racism, upon the reproduction of similarities and differences in economic systems (and variant forms of economic systems)? What forces do population pressures or a relative scarcity of natural resources play in shaping the social formation, including the economic system? These are the types of questions that will come up during our discussions. We will try to avoid relying upon simple, economic determinist arguments, although we will identify many such arguments in the economics literature. Our approach will be open-minded, in the sense that we will allow for the possibility that the complex similarities and differences in social formations (and the underlying economic systems) is the combined product of the aforementioned cultural, political, environmental, and economic processes but cannot be reduced to any one subset of these. This is no minor matter. It allows the participants in the seminar a wider degree of freedom in exploring the forces shaping economic systems than might otherwise be the case. This freedom extends to the student's choice of thesis for her semester research paper.

What are some of the specific topics and case studies that may be examined in the course? The primary focus of this semester's EC 321 will be China. China has been growing at an extraordinary rate, approaching ten percent per annum, for the past three decades.  The growth generated by China is a product of its economic system(s) and the particular type of transition(s) it has undergone.  We will extensively discuss the possible definitions of these systems, their internal dynamics, and the path from one system to another.  We will also attempt to understand the extraordinary value creation that seems to have driven the rapid economic growth and transformation in China's economic and social infrastructure.

We will also spend some time discussing India, Iran, and the kibbutz system in Israel. However, the first case that will be explored will be the now defunct (but nevertheless theoretically important) USSR. Students should feel free to suggest changes to this syllabus, including adding social formations and/or transitions to the table for analysis and debate, as well as omitting topics of lesser interest. Final decisions will be made democratically by the seminar participants. Past topics have included: The theoretical implications of the recent economic crisis in Asia; the end of the Soviet economic experiment (What sort of economic system did Stalin build?); dramatic economic and financial sector reforms, extraordinary growth rates, and the restructuring of state-owned enterprises in China; the reshaping of capitalism in India with economic reforms and the development of the high tech sector; The crisis of capitalism in Argentina and Brazil: lessons for Eastern Europe and Asia; the relationship between economic reform and corruption in Viet Nam; big bang reforms in Japan (Are we entering an era of a new form of Japanese capitalism?); political reform and the crisis of the chaebol system in South Korea; the communal system of the Israeli kibbutz (Does this form of communism offer a real alternative to capitalism?); and Islamic economic systems in theory and practice. 

Requirements: The most important requirement to take this course successfully is a willingness to learn new concepts and ways of thinking.  This course meets the International Relations requirement.  Experience with the concept of overdetermination and/or a course in Marxian theory, economic development, corporate finance, economics in film, U.S. economic history, or Asian economies may be useful, but not required.  If you are concerned that you are unprepared for such an adventure as this course represents, have a look at one or both of the primary texts, Class Theory and History by Resnick and Wolff  and Chinese Capitalism and the Modernist Vision by Gabriel, both of which are on reserve. If you find these texts impenetrable, you may have similar difficulty in the course.  In any event, comparative economic systems is a challenging course, in part, because it requires students to learn new ways of thinking about economics and ways of applying theory. The path to obtaining the necessary conceptual skills required in such a course is not singular. Any student who is concerned that she may have inadequate preparation for this course should feel free to contact me at extension 2818 or by e-mail (sgabriel).

In the calendar below, please note that all readings listed for a particular date should be read prior to that date.  Students are expected to be prepared to discuss these readings on the date they are listed.  Keep in mind that participation in classroom discussions is an important element in learning and, therefore, in grading. This is even more the case when a guest speaker appears in the seminar. On such days, you are each expected to ask questions and otherwise actively engage the speaker.

Course calendar
Sept. 6 Course introduction and objectives.
What's Theory Got to Do with it? Explorations of Economic Concepts:
Class, Markets, Social Formations

"The efforts of men are utilized in two different ways: they are directed to the production or transformation of economic goods, or else to the appropriation of goods produced by others."
     --- Vilfredo Pareto, Manual of Political Economy (1905)
Sept. 13  Marx. " Pre-Capitalist Economic Formations." 

Resnick & Wolff. Class Theory and History: Capitalism and Communism in the USSR. This text is supplementary this semester, rather than required. The theoretical material in this text remains important, but is available in other texts, which are on reserve, most notably Resnick and Wolff's Knowledge and Class, and Wolff and Resnick's Economics: Marxian versus Neoclassical. We will not, however, have the sort of lengthy discussion of the USSR that was done in other iterations of the seminar, in order to accomodate the desire of current participants to open up a discussion of West and East Africa and to expand on past discussions of the European Community. Chinese Capitalism and the Modernist Vision, which is on reserve, provides the primary theoretical approach underpinning the course. You should read as much of this text as possible and ask questions about any concepts or arguments that you believe should be clarified or simply elaborated. You are not required to use the same theoretical framework as embodied in this course. However, you must adopt a theoretical framework appropriate to comparative systems analysis, which excludes the neoclassical paradigm, but could include any number of institutionalist or Marxian paradigms. We will discuss this issue at length early in the seminar. You have to take responsibility for making your own choice of theoretical framework and make sure that this framework does fit the requirements of this course. Papers written for other courses are unlikely to meet these requirements (and, in general, violate the spirit of the semester research requirement). To reiterate, your semester paper must demonstrate understanding of the theoretical concepts and arguments put forward in the seminar, although this need not necessarily restrict your choice of paradigm to the one utilized in Chinese Capitalism and the Modernist Vision. If you would like your own copy of this text (it is very expensive, which is why I decided against requiring you to have the text), then you can obtain the electronic version by clicking the link on this URL:   It is also available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, directly from the publisher, etc. We will be reading and discussing the variant forms of Marxian theory discussed in Chinese Capitalism and the Modernist Vision at our second meeting. Be sure to at least read the first chapter of Chinese Capitalism for that discussion, as well as the online readings linked below:

Satya Gabriel. "Capitalism, Socialism, and the 1949 Chinese Revolution." 

Satya Gabriel. "Real Tigers and Paper Tigers: Feudalism, Self-exploitation, and the 1949 Chinese Revolution." 

Albert Einstein. "Why Socialism?." 

Richard D. Wolff. " Marxism, Class Analysis, and the USSR:  A Y2K Perspective." 

NB:  Click on the section topic above in order to view the list of questions for discussion in the first two seminars (Sept. 7-14). 

Sept. 20  GUEST SPEAKER: David Kotz, Department of Economics and Center for Popular Economics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst will give a lecture titled, "System Change in the Soviet Union and China and the Lessons for a Socialist Alternative to Capitalism."
Two papers were distributed via e-mail, providing two alternative theoretical paradigms for doing comparative systems analysis, including one in which David discusses the SSA approach. If you did not receive these papers, please e-mail the professor. 
China: The Long March to Red Capitalism: Discussion of Social Contracts and the Nexus of the Maoist and Modernist Visions
Sept. 27  Gabriel, chapter 2 of Chinese Capitalism, "Social Contracts and the Rural-Urban Divide: The Nexus of the Maoist and Modernist Visions.

Gabriel. "Capitalism, Socialism, and the 1949 Chinese Revolution.

Gabriel. "Real Tigers and Paper Tigers: Feudalism, Self-exploitation, and the 1949 Chinese Revolution.

Gabriel. "The Chinese Economy from the 1949 Revolution to the Great Leap Forward.

Gabriel. "The Great Leap Forward.

Gabriel. "Pragmatism and the Aftermath of the Great Leap Forward.

Gabriel. "Income Inequality in China's Post-Great Leap Forward Era.

Gabriel. "Economic Liberalization in Post-Mao China: Crossing the River by Feeling for Stones.

Gabriel. "Technological Determinism & Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.

Joseph E. Medley. " (Post)Modern Imperialism and Recent Economic Development in China." 

The following readings are optional (but could be used to provide additional background to the command economy structure that China has been reforming out of existence):

James R. Millar. "Part 1: Development as Exploitation: The Case of Soviet Agriculture" from The Soviet Economic Experiment

China: The Creation of a Capitalist Labor Market
  Oct. 5 Gabriel, chapter 3 of Chinese Capitalism and the Modernist Vision 
China: the TVEs and SREs: Rural and Urban State and Private Capitalisms
  Oct. 5, Second Half Gabriel, chapters 4 and 5 of Chinese Capitalism
Capitalism with a Human Face: The Swedish Model Reexamined
  Oct. 12 Steve Valocchi, "The Origins of the Swedish Welfare State: A Class Analysis of the State and Welfare Politics," in Social Problems, Vol. 29, No.2 (May, 1992), pp. 189-200; M. Donald Hancock and John Logue, "Sweden: The Quest for Economic Democracy," in Polity, Vol. 17, No. 2 (Winter, 1984), pp. 248-270; and, Antoine Joseph, "Pathways to Capitalist Democracy: What Prevents Social Democracy?" in The British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 45, No. 2 (June, 1994), pp. 211-234.
Post-Colonial Social Formations in Africa
  Oct. 26-Nov. 2 Readings for this new section to be determined
Market Socialism: Definitions and Relevance
  Nov. 9-16 Milonakis, Dimitris, "New Market Socialism: a case for rejuvenation or inspired alchemy?" in the Cambridge Journal of Economics, 2003, 27, pps. 97-121.
Laibman, David, "The Future within the Present: Seven Theses for a Robust Twenty-First-Century Socialism."
Tsakalotos, Euclid, "Homo Economicus, Political Economy and Socialism," in Science and Society, Vol. 68, No. 2, Summer 2004, 137-160.
Barr, Michael D., "Lee Kuan Yew's Fabian Phase," in the Australian Journal of Politics and History, Volume 46, Number 1, 2000, pp. 110-125.
Resnick, Stephen and Richard Wolff, "Exploitation, Consumption, and the Uniqueness of US Capitalism."
A Class Analysis of the Iranian Revolution of 1979
  Nov. 23 Hooshang Amirahmadi, Revolution and Economic Transition: The Iranian Experience. (On Reserve

Satyananda Gabriel. "A Class Analysis of the Iranian Revolution of 1979

The Israeli Kibbutz System & Mondragon: Communism in Practice?
  Nov. 30  Joseph Blasi. The Communal Experience of the Kibbutz. (This text is available in the MHC Bookstore.) 

Roy Morrison. We Build the Road as We Travel

End Game
Dec. X Course review. 
Last day of class
Dec. X Term paper due.


Learning Objectives:

This is a seminar course in which each student is expected to actively participate. One of the objectives of the course is for students to learn new theoretical tools and to sharpen existing knowledge of economics such that she can clearly and logically analyze the similarities and differences between economic systems and the underlying economic processes, including processes involving and shaping the production, circulation, and distribution of output. It is expected that students will critically examine the available evidence for these similarities and differences. As part of this effort, students are also expected to develop stronger skills at reading social science to determine when authors i) have failed to carefully define and use theoretical concepts and relationships, ii) make presumptions for which there is little or no evidence, and iii) make generalizations when the evidence supports, at best, only more specific cases. It is not expected that students will come into the class knowing what capitalism, communism, socialism, feudalism, or ancientism is. It is expected that many students will bring to the seminar many presumptions about what these terms mean. An important objective of the course is to examine those presumptions, to find where the aforementioned terms have been used primarily for polemical, rather than social scientific, purposes, and to find tentative agreement on certain strict definitions of these terms, when possible, such that we may have a conversation about the concrete cases under study. Towards this objective, all students will be expected to make at least one presentation in the course, applying the theoretical tools agreed upon, and to write a semester research paper that also makes extensive use of such tools. The presentation and the paper will likely be on the same topic.

Research (Term) Papers:

One requirement for this course is a research paper of approximately 25 pages. The research paper assignment requires that you develop a thesis within comparative economic systems (which we will have discussed in some detail prior to your beginning research and writing), to deploy the theoretical tools developed in the theoretical section of the course (among other tools) in advancing that thesis, to show that you have made a significant effort to understand the existing literature relevant to your thesis, and to demonstrate where your thesis and arguments fit into the relevant debate(s) in comparative economic systems. You should indicate where you find problems with the existing literature and where arguments within that literature have provided the raw material for your own theoretical construction. To summarize, the best way to organize your paper would be to take a clearly stated position in an existing debate and defend your thesis with evidence and logical argument.

The paper is due by the end of finals week, Dec. 20th.

Papers must be typed or produced on a printer; grammar and syntax must be correct; and papers must adhere to scholarly format as regards citation, footnoting, etc. (see the Chicago Manual of Style). I suggest that you create your paper with a word processor, use the spell checker, and keep a backup copy.

I do not object to students discussing their papers with each other or with anyone else. The paper you turn in, however, must represent your unique perspective and work alone.

Each student will also be required to lead a classroom discussion of the topics listed above. I would anticipate that two students would lead each weekly discussion. You may want to write your term paper on a similar topic to that of the weekly discussion you lead.

Selected texts used in the course:

Library of Congress Country Studies
Marx and Engels' Writings

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Copyright © 2000-2003, Satya Gabriel, Economics Department, Mount Holyoke College.