DETAILED information About the subject

Description: This nine-week course offers a pluralist introduction to political economy and economics. We will examine nine (9) competing schools of thought, each of which offer an original and distinctive illumination of economic and social reality. The course offers a level of learning that would at least match that which is offered by a University. However, you do not need to be connected to a university or to have studied political economy or economics previously to enrol in this particular subject. 

Design: This subject is taught in ‘flipped classroom’ mode whereby you first view an online lecture, then undertake some set reading and then participate in a weekly 90 minute tutorial zoom discussion (with a short break at the 45 minute mark). Tutorial sizes have a maximum upper limit of 19 people and are typically a bit less than this. The lectures and readings are all downloadable and may be done whenever you like. The lectures can either be viewed, or simply listened to as podcasts. You can choose from either a face to face or online tutorial. If you occasionally want to switch to an online tutorial (or vice versa) this is usually possible upon request. 

Dates and times

Term 3 – 9 weeks starting on either Monday 12th October/Wed 14th October. 

Cost: AUD$225 (waged), AUD$180 (unwaged). 

Payment:  Payment is usually undertaken by electronic funds transfer, or paypal for people overseas. We can email you the necessary details once you have registered.  

Refunds: If you attend the first class and find that for some reason it is not what you are seeking then we can provide you with a full refund – provided that we are notified within 7 days of your payment. 

Assessment: There are regular questions and answers to allow you to self-test your knowledge, but the results of such self-tests are only available to you. Tutorial discussions are also a great opportunity to test and clarify your ideas.

Consultation: If you need help with any of the material you are welcome, and indeed encouraged, to ask. We can talk to you before, during or after class, via phone, email or Skype/Zoom. There is also a regular Friday helpdesk from 12pm to 1pm via zoom. 

Accreditation: The purpose of the course is to provide you with a high-quality, accessible, university-level introduction to political economy and economics rather than to provide accreditation in the form of a degree, certiciate or similar. However, if you undertake and complete the course, you can obviously list that you have done so on your resume and we are able to provided verification of your participation and engagement with the subject.   

Student feedback: Previous student feedback can be viewed here

Week 1 institutional political economy

It is sometimes imagined that the economy is a system of markets when it is in fact a system of institutions (i.e. formal and informal rules). Whilst the market is definitely a central economic institution, it is necessarily nested inside other institutions and these other institutions exert a profound influence over how markets work. Lectures, readings and discussions will introduce you to key ideas in institutional political economy and its key figures such as Veblen, Galbraith and Myrdal.

Week 2 Evolutionary political economy

An examination of how evolutionary thinking, particularly Darwinian evolutionary thinking has been applied to illuminate economic and social reality. We will look at the ideas of Malthus, Veblen,  Schumpeter, Nelson & Winter. We will also contemplate whether there are generalised Darwinian process present in all economic and social phenomena. 

Week 3 Behavioural economics

Behavioural economics brings psychological insights and methods into economic decision making. A major finding of this school of thought is that our decision making is often surprisingly poor. We consider what (if any) policy implications result from our regularly poor decisions, including contemplating the use of behavioural ‘nudges.’ We also contemplate how behavioural economics might (and might not) improve various real world outcomes. 

Week 4 neoclassical Economics

Neoclassical economics (sometimes called ‘mainstream economics’ or ‘traditional economics’) is something every political economist needs a working knowledge of. The ideas are presented in an accessible manner by focusing on understanding and evaluating the underlying ideas, rather than getting bogged down in technical or mathematical details. If you are seeking to better understand (and better evaluate) the way economists make sense of the world, this material should be both interesting and useful to you.  



Week 5 Post Keynesian political economy

We look at the often badly misunderstood ideas of J M Keynes, particularly his very important ideas concerning the fundamental uncertainty of the future, and the role of money in a market economy. We explain the difference between the Keynes as understood in the economic mainstream versus the ideas as they are expressed in his own writings. We also contemplate the role that Keynesian ideas could play in confronting contemporary challenges such as economic instability, stagnation, inequality and environmental constraint.    

Week 6 Radical political economy 

Like Keynes, Marx is often badly misunderstood and misrepresented (as much by some of his supporters as by his critics). In this week we look at the actual ideas of Marx. We contemplate the strengths and weaknesses of Marxian analysis, evaluate its relevance to contemporary issues and challenges. Whether you are a fan, critical or in-between, you should find a scholarly examination of Marx’s key ideas illuminating and stimulating.   

Week 7 austrian economics

This week we look at the ideas of the often strongly libertarian Austrian School. Scholars working in this tradition include Menger, Mises and Hayek. We examine and evaluate the many interesting, important and influential ideas associated with this school. We also examine whether all the ideas of this school of thought are inherently libertarian or whether some of them might also be relevant and useful to those of a more progressive persuasion.    

Week 8 Feminist political economy

Feminist political economists (or feminist economists) seek to illuminate and remedy recurrent and often quite serious gender blind-spots in economic and social analysis to thereby produce better economic inquiry and policy analysis for all. We will examine the key ideas in feminist political economy and look at the policy implications of its analysis. 


Week 9 ecological political economy

Ecological political economy is an interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary area of knowledge whose foundation stone is the recognition that the economic system sits inside a social system which in turn needs to exist inside the opportunities and constraints of an environmental system. We examine the key ideas and figures in this school. We give particular focus to evaluating de-growth versus steady-state versus green-growth economic systems.