PPE Capstone

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Course Description

The concentration in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics is designed to help students respond critically and insightfully to many ofthe most important and complex problems that mark the contemporary global condition. This capstone seminar begins by revisiting some of the fundamental arguments that shape contemporary approaches to the study of political economy. Beginning with Smith, Marx, Polanyi, Foucault, and Hirschman, we will inquire into the formation of modern capitalism, and the convergence of economics and governance. We will then turn to contemporary studies by Brown, MacLean, Buchanan, Honig, Klein and others to examine contemporary questions about ‘neo-liberalism’, ‘public choice’ theory, and the nexus of democracy and capitalism to probe the limitations of contemporary political economy.

Throughout the course of this seminar, we will strive to formulate and re-formulate fundatmental questions about the contemporary condition. We will also work to critically assess the sufficiency of the assumptions and analytic frameworks we employ as we propose answers to these questions.

Basic Information

Class Meets: Thursdays, 10:30am—1:10 pm, Robinson Hall A243

Professor: Matthew Scherer

Office Hours: Thursdays 1:15pm—3:15pm or by appointment

Office: Research Hall 364: Email: mschere2@gmu.edu

Complete Syllabus[1]


fgdoura: Fatma Gdoura fgdoura@gmu.edu (group A)

malsati: Mohammad Alsati malsati@gmu.edu (group C)

abaig20: Abdullah Baig abaig20@gmu.edu (group A)

mbrien: Mina Brien mbrien@gmu.edu (group C)

ccarrick: Connor Carrick ccarrick@gmu.edu

pcrawfo6: Patrick Crawford pcrawfo6@gmu.edu (group A)

kcrespo: Katherine Crespo kcrespo@gmu.edu

fgdoura: Fatma Gdoura fgdoura@gmu.edu (group A)

lherzog: Lawrence Herzog lherzog@gmu.edu (group B)

eiyob: Elizabeth Iyob eiyob@gmu.edu (group A)

alakeman: Alexa Lakeman alakeman@gmu.edu

hletona2: Huber Letona hletona2@gmu.edu (group B)

clong18 Charles Long clong18@gmu.edu (group C)

jnyetamn: Juan Manuel Alberic Nyetam jnyetamn@gmu.edu (group C)

aozerans: Artem Ozeranskyy aozerans@gmu.edu (group B)

aritter2: Anna Ritter aritter2@gmu.edu (group C)

jross26: John Ross jross26@gmu.edu (group B)

jrusse18: Joseph Russell jrusse18@gmu.edu (group A)

mschere2: Matthew Scherer mschere2@gmu.edu

Required Books

Many readings will be available online. However, students must acquire copies of the following books:

Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation

Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics

Wendy Brown, Undoing the Demos

Nancy MacLean, Democracy in Chains

Bonnie Honig, Public Things: Democracy in Disrepair

Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate


Week 1. January 25 Introduction to the Course

Week 2. February 1 From the government of passions to interests?

Week 3. February 8 Adam Smith and Karl Marx

Week 4. February 15 Adam Smith and Karl Marx, continued

Week 5. February 22 The Great Transformation

Week 6. March 1 The Great Transformation, continued

Week 7. March 8 The Birth of Biopolitics,

Spring Break March 12–16

Week 8. March 22 The Birth of Biopolitics, continued

Week 9. March 29 Undoing the Demos

Week 10. April 5 Public Choice Part One

Week 11. April 12 Public Choice Part Two

Week 12. April 19 Public Choice Part Three

Week 13. April 26 Public Things

Week 14. May 3 Capitalism vs. the Climate

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