History of Economic Thought

Course Code SL7
Tutor Christian Michel
Wednesdays, for 11 weeks
Full fee £80, Conc fee £35

Who Is The Course For

Economic activity has profoundly transformed all societies in unpredictable ways, at different paces and in different directions (although globalisation seems to lead them towards a broadly similar model). The course will examine how thinkers, have shaped the economic world we live in. “Ideas of economists and political philosophers, whether right or wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. In reality, the world is ruled by little else!

The course is designed as an introduction to the subject. No prior knowledge of economics is assumed. Familiarity with philosophy, however vague, could help, but is not required.

What Does This Course Cover

The course will follow the chronological order as a natural approach, starting with Greek thinkers, Taoism, and the economy of the Indian cast system; moving to the European Middle Ages and Islam; Mercantilists and Physiocrats in the 16th and 17th Centuries, whose influence is still very much being felt; Adam Smith, of course; Liberals, Socialists and Marxists in the 19th Century; and we will examine the competing schools of economic development in the 20th Century: command economies of the Fascist and Soviet regimes, and their critique by Ludwig von Mises and the Austrian School; Keynes and social democracies, and their critique by Friedrich Hayek; the post-Marxist take on consumer societies; the theories of endogenous growth in post-colonial states; Milton Friedman and monetarism; the “Chicago Boys”; social justice in the philosophies of Rawls, Nozick and Amartya Sen; the return of Keynesianism, with Joseph Stieglitz and Paul Krugman; and finally, of course, we will not conclude.

At the end of the course students will have a better understanding of economic issues that philosophies, religions and moralities have explored throughout history: the meaning of labour; the exploitation of nature; interest rates; private property; what constitutes wealth and social justice; community and competition – millennia-old questions that are still very much with us today. Their study forms the background knowledge we need to act as more responsible human beings and citizens.


What Will It be Like

The course will include tutor presentations and lively discussions.
Student self assessment and detailed feedback will be given privately on students’ contributions, and assessed against stated objectives.

What Else Do You Need To Bring Or Do

Pen and paper, together with a curious and open mind, are the only requirements.