POL S 270 A: Introduction to Political Economy

Summer Term: 
Meeting Time: 
to be arranged
* *
Travis Nelson

Syllabus Description:


Summer 2021

The University of Washington

POLS 270: Introduction to Political Economy

Full Term, Online

5 Credits



Instructor: Travis Nelson

Office hrs: Online

Office: GWN 36



This course is designed to introduce students to the basics of Political Economy. The course will be broken into two components. The first component of the class focuses on some of the early thinkers in Political Economy, including Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Karl Marx, and John Maynard Keynes. The second component of the course will be focused on topics in Political Economy, including Rational Choice Theory, Game Theory, Trade, and Development. 


There is one book assigned for the class, The Worldly Philosophers by Robert Heilbroner. The rest of the readings will be provided as PDFs. The course grade will largely be based on two exams, online discussion boards, and a research paper.


Please see full syllabus for details. 


Week 1: Foundations of Political Economy

    • Readings/Lecture:
      • Heilbroner Chapters 1 & 2 "Introduction" & "The Economic Revolution"
      • Recommended: Caporaso and Levine Introduction and Chapter 1 "Introduction" & "Politics and Economics"

Week 2: The Classics

    • Readings/Lecture:

      • Heilbroner Chapters 3 & 4 ``The Wonderful World of Adam Smith'' & ``The Gloomy Presentiments of Parson Malthus and David Ricardo''
      • Caporaso and Levine Chapter 2 ``The Classical Approach''

Week 3:  Marxism

    • Readings/Lecture

      • Heilbroner Chapters 5 & 6,  ``The Dreams of the Utopian Socialists'' & ``The Inexorable System of Karl Marx''
      • Caporaso and Levine Chapter 3 ``Marxian Political Economy''

Week 4: Keynes and Friedman

    •  Readings/Lecture
      • Heilbroner Chapter 9 ``The Heresies of John Maynard Keynes''
      • Paul Krugman. Who Was Milton Friedman? New York Review of Books, pages 1--13, February 2007

Week 5: Behavior versus Rational Choice

    • Readings/Lecture
      • Caporaso and Levine Chapter 6 ``Economic Approaches to Political Economy''
      • Only Read pp. 1471-1481 Jolls, Sunstein, and Thaler. ``A Behavioral Approach to Law and Economics'' Stanford Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 5 (May, 1998)
      • Kahneman, Knetsch, and Thaler. ``The Endowment Effect, Loss Aversion, and Status Quo Bias'' Journal of Economic Perspectives, Volume 5, Number 1, Winter 1991, Pages 193--206
      • Exam 1

Week 6: Political Economy of Trade

    • Readings/Lecture

Week 7: Globalization and Development

    • Readings/Lecture
      • Deborah Solomon, ``Questions for Dambisa Moyo: The Anti-Bono,'' New York Times Magazine (19 February 2009).
      • Nicholas Kristof, ``Where Sweatshops are a Dream,'' The New York Times (14 January 2009).
      • Silverstein, Ken.  ``Shopping for Sweat: The human cost of a two-dollar T-shirt,'' Harper's Magazine (January 2010)
      • Hellweg, (2008). “Globalization, Policy Constraints, and Vote Choice”, Journal of Politics, vol. 70 (4), pp. 1128-1141.

Week 8: Political Economy of Financial Crises


    • Hall, Peter A. (2012). “The Economics and Politics of the Euro Crisis”, German Politics, vol 21, no. 4, pp. 355-371

    • Peter Hall (2014). “Varieties of Capitalism and the Euro Crisis”, West European Politics, vol. 37, no. 6, pp. 1223-1243.

    • Research Paper DUE

Week 9: Political Economy of Health

      • Exam 2
Catalog Description: 
Political economy as a tool for understanding and evaluating the political world. Combines theory, methods, and insights derived from economics and political science and applies them to a range of substantive issues.
Department Requirements: 
International Relations Field
American Politics Field
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Last updated: 
April 14, 2021 - 10:59pm