Current Economic Issues and Social Movements

Spring 2019 quarter

Taught by

economics, political economy
English literature, theater studies

We are living in an era of continual crisis, as the cracks in the global economic system become more and more visible. Our program focuses on analyzing these problems and developing skills to assess their impact, while highlighting different social movements that have mobilized popular resistance. We will examine proposed and actual economic and social policies and alternatives to capitalism. Given how quickly events on the ground are changing, the social movements covered will be determined by those events. The syllabus will include intersections between the U.S. and the global economy. We will also tackle climate justice, racial justice, gender justice, labor, immigration and refugee rights, and economic inequality.

We will attempt to address both the underlying causes of global economic crises and the principles that allow social movements to grow and flourish. Students will be introduced to competing theoretical frameworks and perspectives for explaining the causes of economic and social problems and their potential solutions (frameworks such as neoclassical economics, liberalism, Marxism, feminism, socialism, and anarchism). Our reading list will combine data-driven descriptions and theoretical analyses with first-person accounts. These readings will be supplemented by film screenings, guest presentations, faculty lectures, and student presentations in which participants will be encouraged to analyze particular case studies in greater detail, focusing on solutions proposed by policy makers, scholars, and grass-roots organizations. Class discussions will often be student-led and will be structured, in part, around a comparison of reform efforts and revolutionary movements. Students will also be encouraged to attend lectures and other events on campus and in the broader community. Regular writing and final project assignments will encourage students to think synthetically about issues covered, as well as possible solutions.

This is our premise: The global economic system is designed to generate poverty, inequality, and injustice; but there are also opportunities for solidarity, resistance, and societal transformation. We welcome students of divergent political viewpoints, but will also be transparent about our own. All students should be expected to engage thoughtfully and generously in challenging conversations about structural oppression.

Program Details

Fields of Study

economics political economy political science

Preparatory For

community-based organizations, advocacy, public policy, education, alternative justice systems, graduate school in social science, history, geography, and political economy.


Spring Open

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered


Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning