Description: This ten-week course offers a pluralist introduction to political economy and economics. We will examine nine 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 suggested reading and then participate in a weekly 90 minute class (with a short break at the 45 minute mark) where we discuss set questions as well field any queries or comments you wish to contribute. Tutorial sizes have a maximum upper limit of 18 people (usually less) in order to generate a conversational, easy-going and genuinely interactive experience. 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. One-on-one help is provided whenever you need to clarify anything. 

Commencement date and discussion group time(s)

Term 3, 2022 starting Monday 11th of July, Mon 6pm to 7.30pm (Eastern Australian Standard Time – UTC+10). This translates to 10am Monday (Central European Time). 

Group discussion sessions are 90 minutes long with a 5-minute break at the halfway mark. 

Cost (major currencies list below, contact us for costs in other currencies)

Australian Dollars    AUD$240 (waged), AUD$200 (unwaged).
US Dollars               US$160 (waged)    US$140 (unwaged)
Euros                       EUR160 (waged)    EUR130 (unwaged)
UK Pounds              GBP135 (waged)    GBP110 (unwaged)

Payment can be made via electronic funds transfer, credit card, paypal or money order. All students are eligible for a full (and no questions asked) refund if they change their mind about undertaking the course provided they can provide notification within 7 days of registering. 

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. You can get one-on-one assistance via email, phone or zoom to confirm (or clarify) any aspect of the 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 formal accreditation in the form of a degree, certificate or similar. However, you can certainly gain a level of knowledge that matches similar courses taught at university and if you undertake and complete the course, you can obviously list that you have done so on your resume and we are able to provide verification of your participation and engagement with the subject.   

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 (often referred to as ‘institutional economics’) and its key figures such as Thorstein Veblen, J K Galbraith and Gunnar Myrdal.

Week 2 Behavioural economics

Behavioural economics brings psychological insights and methods into economic decision making. A major and consistent finding of this school of thought is that our decision making is often surprisingly irrational. We consider what 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 3 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 4 neoclassical Economics (Part 1)

Neoclassical economics (sometimes called ‘mainstream economics’ or ‘traditional economics’ or ‘orthodox economics’) is something every political economist needs to be familiar and confident with. Neoclassical content is 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 of practical use to you. In this particular week we concentrate on neoclassical microeconomics – the analysis of decision making by consumers and businesses. 

 

Week 5 neoclassical Economics (Part 2)

We continue our examination of neoclassical economics, turning out attention to macroeconomics. In doing so, we will also introduce basic macroeconomic concepts that are relevant to all schools of thought. Accordingly we look at the nature and sources of economic growth, unemployment and inflation.

 

Week 6 Post Keynesian economICS

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 neoclassical (orthodox) economics versus Keynes’ 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. 

Post Keynesian economics has some common ground with modern money theory (MMT) so there are some additional/optional readings – including several written by MMT aligned authors – for those that are interested in pursuing what can arguably be regarded as a particular variant of Post Keynesianism.  

Week 7 Marxian political economy 

If one wants to think about the nature of capitalism and what might potentially succeed it then Marx continues to offer relevant, interesting and original insights. Nonetheless, like J M Keynes and Adam Smith, Marx is often misrepresented and rendered in overly simplistic terms by both supporters and critics so there is a lot to be said for not relying on hearsay and having a proper look. Accordingly, in this week we look at Marx’s distinctive and wide-ranging contribution to political economy. This will include discussion of his formulation of the labour theory of value, historical materialism and much more. 

Week 8 GEORGIST economICS 

In this week we look at the work of Henry George and of the issue of land in general. In turn this leads on to a more discussion of the rentier economy. Classical political economists such as Adam Smith and David Ricardo accorded land special status in economic theory. George extended this work in distinctive and original ways. If you are interested in issue of housing affordability and inequality of wealth and income you will find much to engage with in Georgist ideas.   

Week 9 Feminist economICS

Feminist economists make a number of important contributions to our understanding of economic and social reality. In particular, they offer often striking illumination of recurrent and often quite serious gender blind-spots that can distort the world and our analysis of it. In this week we will examine the key ideas in feminist political economy, including the policy implications they carry. 

 

Week 10 ecological EconomICS

Ecological economics 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.