U.S. ECONOMIC HISTORY (IN FILM):
A Post-structuralist Marxian Analysis
 


Economics 209 Spring 2003 Tuesday 1-3:30 + film showing on Monday night

Satya Gabriel
Associate Professor Economics
Mount Holyoke College
Email:  sgabriel@mtholyoke.edu

Course Description:
U.S. Economic History (in film) for majors and nonmajors.

This course in U.S. Economic History involves study of the role of economic processes (including class processes) in shaping the history of the United States of America, viewed in social scientific terms as a social formation of complexly interacting political, economic, cultural, and environmental processes.  This semester students will also explore the ways in which films depict that history, learning to critique the film presentation of the complexity that is the United States over any given period of time. In exploring economic history, the course will explore several, sometimes intersecting, periods of history defined in terms of class processes that prevailed in certain regions of the USA at the time. For example, the course will examine the slave-era, the self-employment-era, and the capitalist-era. The relationship between economic theories and the prevalent class processes are also discussed.

The exploration of the United States as a constantly changing social formation will provide students with critical insights into economic development, comparative economic systems, and political economy. By necessity, the study of economic history requires learning to use theoretical tools from these other subfields of study. These tools will be deployed in creating a coherent understanding of a necessarily chaotic process of change. To an extent, this coherence is produced by focusing attention on specific topics and/or questions. These topics will include the following: i) analyzing the overdetermined interaction of demographic change with economic, political, and cultural processes; ii) examining the role of racism (including the production of the American concept of race) and sexism in U.S. history; iii) exploring the way U.S. economic history is shaped, in part, by and shapes environmental conditions; iv) debating the interaction of various types of class processes with an ever evolving American democracy; and, exploring the alternative conceptions of U.S. economic history that arise out of post-colonial discourses. By analyzing these and other issues in the context of historical change and economic growth, students will be in a stronger position to understand the contemporary U.S. social formation and the possibilities for change in the future of that social formation.

 

Grading:  Final grades will be based on five projects selected by each student. A contract, including descriptions and deadlines for each project, will be submitted for approval.
 
 

LECTURE TOPICS:

I.   Introduction to Economic History
         1. The Role of Economic Theory
                 a. Neoclassical Economic Theory
                 b. Orthodox Marxian Theory
                 c. Post-structuralist Marxian Theory
                     Online Reading (in progress):
                     Post Structuralist Marxian Theory and the Study of History

                 Also, for the 11 February meeting, please read the first three chapters of
                 E.K. Hunt, Property and Prophets.
                For Future Readings --- see the readings section below.

II.  First Nations and "Primitive" Communism
      See Dean Saitta handout.
      Provocative Question: Who are the "Indians" for Today's Americans?

III. British Colonialism, Feudalism, Ancientism, and Slavery
       Why Did Feudalism Fail in the Americas?

IV.  Regionalism and Uneven Development: Cotton & Textiles:
      The Link Between Slavery and Capitalism


V.    Post-bellum Feudalism and the Rise of Monopoly Capital

VI.   Capitalist Business Cycles and Great Depressions

VII.  Political and Social Reform and the New Deal

VIII. Corporate Capitalism Prevails in the Late 19th and Early 20th Century

IX.   Mass Production, Fordism, and the Rise of Consumer Culture

X.    The New Deal
       Tennessee Valley Authority excerpt from Scheiber, Vatter, and Faulkner

XI.   Bureaucratic Capitalism and the Agency Problem

XII.  Racism and Capitalist Accumulation:
        Was the Civil Rights Movement Good For Business?


XIII. Post-Vietnam Era Corporate Restructuring

XIV.   The Clinton Era: The Go Go 90s
 
 
 

READINGS:

I.    "The Colonial Struggle" in Heilbroner and Singer
       Chapters 1-3 in E.K. Hunt

II.   "Communal Class Processes and Pre-Columbian Social Dynamics" by Dean J. Saitta (handout --- published in Gibson-Graham, Resnick, and Wolff's Re/presenting Class, 2001, Duke University Press.
      "Declaration of Economic Independence," chapter 4 of Heilbroner and Singer
      Chapter 4 of E.K. Hunt

III.  "Preparations for the Age of Manufacture," chapter 5 and "The Structural Transformation," chapter 6 in Heilbroner and Singer
      Chapters 4 and 5 of E.K. Hunt
      Economic History in Brief
      Discussion of Lowell Factory System

IV.   Chapters 6 and 7 of E.K. Hunt

Post-Spring Break


"If we may judge the inentions of warriors by what they do after victory, the organization and functioning of the U.S. government during and after the Civil War tells us that northern intentions were to adapt federal power to the needs of industrial, not planter, capitalism; and the former slaves were abandoned to the not-so-tender mercies of their former masters---as ruthlessly exploited and oppressed sharecroppers."
        ---Douglas Dowd


V.    Notes on Charles Sellers' The Market Revolution:
        Jacksonian America, 1815-1846
        Kayatekin Paper on Post-bellum Feudal Subjectivity
        Read chapters 7 and 8 of Heilbroner and Singer
        Sherman Anti-Trust Act

VI.   "Growth and Development, Prosperity and Development,"
         from Douglas Dowd's U.S. Capitalist Development Since 1776


VII.  "The Emergence of the Organizational Society" and "The Progressive Era
        of Political and Social Reform" in Charles H. Hession and Hyman Sardy's         Ascent to Affluence: A History of American Economic Development

VIII. "Part 8: The Emergence and Development of the Consumer Economy:
         1919-1932" in Hession and Sardy

IX.    Chapters 12 ("The Great Depression")
         and 13 ("The New Deal") of Heilbroner and Singer
         and Chapter 12 "Keynesian Economics and the Great Depression" in Hunt

X.      Chapters 14 and 15 of Heilbroner and Singer
         and Chapter 8 "The Rise of Corporate Capitalism ..." in E.K. Hunt

XI.    Chapters 16 and 17 of Heilbroner and Singer
         and Chapters 13 and 14 "Contemporary Capitalism ..." in Hunt


 
 
 

FILMS:

I.    Little Big Man
II.   Africans in America: Part 1
III.  Amistad
IV.    Daughters of Free Men
V.     Matewan
VI.   Grapes of Wrath
VII.  Wild River
VIII. Hudsucker Proxy
IX.   Black Like Me
X.   Roger & Me
XI.    Startup.com

 


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