Economics 105 Spring 2002 MW 2:30

Satyananda Gabriel
Associate Professor Economics
Mount Holyoke College

Teaching Assistants:

Michael Coles:  e-mail:
Michael's office hours are Monday 4-5 in Thompson 628.
Michael's discussion sections are at 9:05 and 10:10 in Dickinson 206.

Merrilee Mardon:     e-mail:
Merrilee's office hours are Wednesday 1:00 -2:00 and TBA (to be arranged).
Merrilee's sections are at 11:15 in Dickinson 206 and at 12:20 in Dickinson 109.

Course Description:
Introduction to political economy for majors and nonmajors.

Political economy is the study of the role of economic processes in shaping society and history.  Political economy (particularly when the word "radical" is added as an adjective) has come to be closely associated with the work of economists who adopted key concepts developed by Marx, in particular his focus on class processes or relationships, but who rejected the economic determinism of orthodox versions of Marxian theory.  Thus, political economy makes extensive and intensive use of class analysis in making sense of society and history, but does so in the context of political, cultural, and environmental processes, as well as other economic processes. 

Nevertheless, most of the writings in political economy, including the work of Marx, have been concerned specifically with understanding the role of capitalism (as the prevalence of a specific class arrangement or set of class processes) in shaping society and history.  This course introduces students to a post-structuralist approach to political economy, an approach that de-centers political economy from this narrow focus on capitalism.  Post-structuralist political economy provides an alternative to orthodox (neoclassical) economic theory (taught in its purest form in the introductory course in microeconomics), as well as to more traditional (economic determinist) versions of Marxian (or Marxian-influenced) political economy.

In the architecture of this new form of political economy, all social processes are significant determinants of economic outcomes, the behavior of economic agents and institutions, and the direction of historical change.  In other words, the post-structuralist approach studied in this course rejects economic determinism in favor of a more open-minded approach to social causality and the creation of history (overdetermination).  For instance, unlike orthodox economic theory or economic determinist versions of Marxian theory, the post-structuralist approach would view cultural processes as no less significant than economic processes in shaping investment decisions.  The same could be said for political or environmental processes.  This point, among others, will be made by essays and papers read during the semester.

This post-structuralist political economy, like a number of other versions of (radical) political economy, is, in part, a product of debates over the theoretical contributions of Marx. This has implications for the concepts that are highlighted within social analysis. In particular, it implies a concern with conducting class analysis. Thus, students in the course will learn the language of class analysis and study a range of different applications of class analysis.

Primary Course Objective: At the end of the semester students should be comfortable with the language and mode of analysis of post-structuralist political economy and be well positioned for later comparison of this approach to alternative economic theories.  Thus, each student should achieve the following objectives:  i) understand the difference between the orthodox determinist/reductionist approaches to economic and social analysis and an overdeterminist approach;  ii) understand the basics of conducting class analysis;  iii) understand the post-structuralist Marxian definition of capitalism; iv) learn how to distinguish capitalist class processes (the basis for capitalism) from non-capitalist (slave, feudal, ancient, communal) class processes; and, perhaps most crucially, v) understand how the material covered in the course relates to his or her life.

Required Text:  Re/Presenting Class edited by J.K. Gibson-Graham, Stephen Resnick, Richard Wolff (GGRW). This textbook is available at the annex or from online booksellersOther readings will be available online. Therefore, do not simply print a copy of this syllabus and think it is etched in stone. Instead, check this online syllabus at the end of every week (online readings will be posted no later than Friday noon if relevant for the following week).

Grading:  Final grades will be based on two midterms and a final exam. The first midterm contributes 25% to the semester grade, the second contributes 35%, and the final examination 40%.


Readings denoted with an * require Adobe Acrobat.

January 30th: Introductory Lecture

February 4-6: J.K. Gibson-Graham, Stephen Resnick, and Richard Wolff, "Toward a Poststructuralist Political Economy," pps. 1-22 of GGRW
Gabriel, Greater Caribbean:  Crossing the Boundary, chapters 1 & 2*

February 11-13: Bruce Norton, "Reading Marx for Class," pps. 23-55 of GGRW
Gabriel, Capitalism, Socialism, and the 1949 Chinese Revolution

February 18: No class --- Note that Mount Holyoke College does not recognize the power of UMass administrators to change days of the week, so the Monday class scheduled on a Tuesday is cancelled.

February 20-25: J.K. Gibson-Graham and Phillip O'Neill, "Exploring a New Class Politics of the Enterprise," pps. 56-80 of GGRW
Gabriel, Lecture Notes on Post-structuralist Theory of the Firm

February 25-March 4:  Gabriel and Todorova, "Racism and Capitalist Accumulation"*

March 6-11: Review and Summary of Introductory Concepts and Logic
                    Sample Questions for First Midterm

March 13 First Midterm

March 16-24: Spring Break

March 25-27: Andriana Vlachou, "Nature and Class:  A Marxian Value Analysis," pps. 105-130 of GGRW

April 1-3: Carole Biewener, "The Promise of Finance: Banks and Community Development," pps. 131-157 of GGRW
............Case Study:  Belize Rural Women's Association
............Gabriel, Belize Rural Women's Association, Revolving Loan Fund,
& Women's Cooperatives

April 3-8: J.K. Gibson-Graham and David Ruccio, "After Development: Re-imagining Economy and Class," pps. 158-181 of GGRW

April 8-10: Gabriel, "A Class Analysis of the Iranian Revolution of 1979," pps. 206-226 of GGRW

April 15: Patriot's Day

Click Here for Study Questions for Midterm II

April 17 Second Midterm

April 22-24: Serap Kayatekin, "Sharecropping and Feudal Class Processes in the Postbellum Mississippi Delta," pps. 227-246 of GGRW

April 29-May 1: Dean Saitta, "Communal Class Processes and Pre-Columbian Social Dynamics," pps. 247-263 of GGRW

May 6-8: Gabriel, "Ambiguous Capital:  The Success of China's New Capitalists"
             Gabriel, "Ambiguous Capital II:  Restructuring China's State-owned Enterprises"

May 13-15: Stephen Resnick and Richard Wolff, "Struggles in the USSR: Communisms Attempted and Undone," pps. 264-290 of GGRW

Click Here for Study Questions for Final Exam

Final Exams

Heterodox Economic Theory (essay in progress --- what is the difference between political economy and heterodox economic theory?)