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Economy: a critical introduction and possible future

Our world is forcefully shaped by the theories and assertions of economics. Far from its claims to a neutral and disinterested description of human behavior, however, this discipline operates through a coercive hold on institutional discourse and a monopoly on the rules of technocratic governance. Economics does not describe, but instead creates and enforces the rules of the game. It ridicules and erases alternative and critical views, and strongly shapes policy, institutions, and even the patterns of daily life.

In this course we denaturalize economics and economism, asking how they have emerged and thrived in particular social and historical contexts and in service of particular race and class interests. We look critically at the worldview implied by economics and at how that perspective has changed over the decades to continue to serve elite needs. We consider the various strains of economics—neoclassical, heterodox, Marxist—in light of their history and relationship to power. Finally, we orient economics with respect to a range of more critical perspectives: we examine why these have not yet displaced economics and what possibilities might exist for their doing so.

Outline of the class

  1. The emergence of economics, or Where did this thing called economics come from? (Marieke de Goede 2005)

  2. Economy, economics and neoliberal subjectivity, or How did capitalism colonize our minds? (Mark Fisher 2009, Randy Martin 2002)

  3. Current strains of economics, their claims and loyalties, or Surely not all economists?. (David Graeber 2011)

  4. Critical perspectives on economy and economics, or Isn't a better world possible?. (Samuel Chambers "No such thing")


  • Fisher, Mark. 2009. Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? Winchester, UK: Zero Books.

  • Goede, Marieke de. 2005. Virtue, Fortune, and Faith: A Genealogy of Finance. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

  • Graeber, David. 2011. Debt: The First 5,000 Years. Brooklyn, NY: Melville House.

  • Martin, Randy. 2002. Financialization of Daily Life. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.