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History of Economic Thought and Ideology

Module Code: EC4160

Module Title: History of Economic Thought and Ideology

  • ECTS Weighting: 15
  • Semester/Term Taught: Michaelmas + Hilary Terms
  • Contact Hours: 44 hours of lectures and approximately 8 hours of seminars.
  • Module Personnel: Lecturer - Professor Marvin Suesse

Module Content

This module traces the history of economic thought from the first economic thinkers to the present day, and explores how some economic ideas were transformed into economic ideologies and policies.

Michaelmas Term:
This part of the module addresses the history of economic thought. This is done in two sections. The first section traces the elaboration of basic economic principles by Classical, Socialist, and Neoclassical thinkers. The second section splits up 20th century economic thought into its constituent disciplines.

Topics discussed during Michaelmas Term include:

  • Classical Economics;
  • Marxist Economics;
  • Utilitarianism and the Marginal Revolution;
  • The Neoclassical Synthesis;
  • 20th century thinking on:
    • Economic Dynamics;
    • Economic Behaviour of Firms and Individuals;
    • Money, Banking and Finance;
    • Public Economics;
    • Development and Growth.

Hilary Term:
The second part of the module concentrates on how abstract economic thought has been transformed into economic ideologies, and how these ideologies have been applied in the course of the 20th century.

Topics discussed during Hilary Term include:

  • The cooperative movement prior to WWII;
  • Marxism in the USSR and in China;
  • Fascism and corporatism in Germany and Italy;
  • Social democracy and the welfare state in Europe;
  • Nationalism and Socialism in post-colonial Africa;
  • Protectionism and the Washington Consensus in Latin America and East Asia;
  • Reaganomics in the United States and Great Britain;
  • Islamic economic thought and finance.

Module Learning Aims

This module aims to:

  • provide students with an understanding of the fundamental ideas on which modern economic theory and methodology are based;
  • provide insight into the historical and ideological context in which different economic systems and policies arose;
  • provide students interested in interdisciplinary work with a bridge between subjects as diverse as economics, political science, sociology, history, and philosophy;
  • provide students with the skills to write and argue coherently and persuasively; and
  • provide students with the intellectual foundations on which an undergraduate dissertation can be written.

Module Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module, students should be able to:

  • identify the basic philosophical principles on which contemporary economics rests;
  • trace the evolution of economics and its constituent fields from the Classical thinkers to neoclassical thought and its modern challengers;
  • understand how some economic theories have been transformed into economic ideologies;
  • evaluate the historical context in which economic ideologies arose and were applied;
  • engage in the academic debate surrounding the impact of such ideologies on economic policies in the 20th century.

Recommended Reading List

Michaelmas Term:
The following two books provide a guide to some (though not all) of the material covered. Ernesto Screpanti, Stefano Zamagni, and David Field, An Outline of the History of Economic Thought, 2005, OUP Oxford
Alessandro Roncaglia, The Wealth of Ideas: A History of Economic Thought, 2005, CUP

Hilary Term:
There is no single textbook suitable for the whole term. A starting point is provided by:

Lawrence H. White, The clash of economic ideas: policy debates and experiments of the last hundred years, 2012, CUP

Module Pre-Requisite

This course is open to a multi-disciplinary audience. However, students should have completed a module in Intermediate Economics successfully. Exceptions to this rule are to be discussed with the Lecturer.

Assessment Details

Students will hand in one written essay based on their reading of the literature for each term. Each essay accounts for 25% of the overall grade. A final exam accounts for 50% of the overall grade.

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