This eleven-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. 

information About the subject

Free Preview: Contact us to arrange free, no obligation access to the first week of lectures, readings and tutorials.

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 discussion. The lectures and readings can be done whenever you like. Choose from either a face to face or online tutorial. 

Dates and times

The subject website is now open. Tutorials start Tuesday 8th of October, 6.00-7.30pm (face to face tutorials) and Wednesday 9th October 9.00-10.30am and 6.00-7.30pm (online tutorials).

The subject runs for 11 weeks and concludes 17-18th December.

 All times above are Australian Eastern Standard Time. 

Location: Activity Room 1, Kathleen Syme Library, Carlton, Melbourne, Australia (pictured left).  Very accessible via public transport. For those choosing to attend the online tutorial the location is anywhere in the world where there is a reliable internet connection. 

Cost: AUD$220 (waged), AUD$154 (unwaged). This translates to AUD$20 per week (waged) or AUD$14 (unwaged). As already mentioned, you can participate for a week free of charge in order to evaluate the course. 

Assessment: There is no assessment for this course.

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.  

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 An INtroduction neoclassical Economics

The first of two weeks on neoclassical economics (sometimes called ‘mainstream economics’ or ‘traditional economics’). The ideas are presented in 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 Neoclassical economics and policy

This week we look at neoclassical policy prescriptions in the domain of trade, environmental protection, foreign aid, government ownership and labour market regulation. We also look at the use (and misuse) of cost-benefit analysis and economic modelling in public policy formulation.  

Week 6 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 actual ideas of ideas as 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 7 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 an scholarly examination of Marx’s key ideas illuminating and stimulating.   

Week 8 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 9 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 10 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 in#202020#side a social system which in turn needs to exist inside the opportunities and constrains 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.  

Week 11 conclusion

In this week we contemplate the relationship between political economy and economics. Evaluate the merits of economic pluralism and what constitutes intellectual progress. We also examine what the study of the history of economic thought, and economic history can contribute to our understanding of economic and social processes.