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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Social Policy

Undergraduate Course: Rethinking the Financial Crisis (SCPL08011)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 8 (Year 1 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryStudents on this course will discuss contemporary social, economic and political problems following the lasting consequences of the 2007/2008 financial crisis after engaging with a range of different ways to think about how the economy may be understood and how it interacts with society and the state. Students will engage with classic and contemporary thinkers as well as top-priority current agenda topics such as austerity, welfare reform and financial regulation. The course will be taught in a highly interactive manner and issues will be discussed in a substantive, rather than technical way. However throughout the teaching students will be equipped to engage with economic principles and analyses in a critical and informed manner useful for other courses in the social sciences and humanities. The assessment in this course will allow students to engage with both crucial aspects of the syllabus: on the one hand they will explore a range of literature that questions how we understand the role of the economy, on the other hand they will engage with the actions of and reporting on actual contemporary political actors in the recent national and international sphere.
Course description The financial crisis of 2007/2008 affected most countries across the world with consequences felt until the present day and with strong implications for the future. Current policy making is heavily influenced by the consequences of this crisis with certain approaches dominating the political arena. Championed by a range of politicians, media commentators and economists from many schools of thought, many of these dominants paradigms are however contentious. Not only are they critiqued by certain macro- and political economists, but also by activists, scholars from other social sciences and the humanities focussing on more than the economic mechanisms.

This course will place the current debate about the right approach to the role of the state in relation to the economy in the context of a rich history of social and economic thought. By engaging with classic thinkers, we will explore that the way we think of the economy nowadays is not the only way one could think about it and that scholars traditionally thought of as founders of economics (such as Adam Smith) actually never saw economics as particularly distinct from other forms of social analysis.

Based on this solid foundation we will embark to engage with the contemporary problems faced after the financial crisis of 2007/2008, engaging actively with the political and social implications. In doing so we will ask to what extent political parties provide genuine alternative conceptions of how to do social and economic policy and why particular assumptions about the role of private actors vis a vis the state have become considered as ┐facts┐ by actors on the traditional left and right, although they are very contentious.

For the course no prior knowledge of economics is assumed, as the course is not designed to teach the technicalities of economics or political economy. Students from across the social sciences with an interest in social policy, political decision making, the interplay between the economy and society and theoretical approaches to understanding these issues will find the course useful. The course would also be relevant for students with an interest in these issues from other disciplines (for example economics, history and philosophy).

At the end of the course students will be shown by staff members from different subject areas within the School of Social and Political Science how they may pursue different interests to the learning about the economy in depth through offers made during the honours years.

The course is broken down into three segments: In the first third we will engage with traditional ideas of how the relationship between the economy, the state and society can be understood. In the second part we will look at the emergence of dominant economic paradigms in the 1990s and 2000s and then finally investigate how that has shaped the way we engaged with the aftermath of the financial crisis (and how we do not consider engaging with policy and politics).

Texts covered in this course will be a mixture of writings from classic thinkers (e.g. Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham, Karl Marx, Friedrich Hayek, Joseph Schumpeter), contemporary political and economic thinkers (e.g. Thomas Piketty, Martin Woolf, Mark Blyth, Philip Mirovski, Simon Griffiths) and journalists/commentators engaging with the interplay between politics, academia and business (e.g. Owen Jones, Kevin Rose, Mark Leibovich).
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2015/16, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 20, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 10, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 166 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 90 %, Practical Exam 10 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 10% Active tutorial participation
30% 1500 word mid-term essay
60% 2500 word media portfolio analysis
Feedback Active tutorial participation (throughout the semester)
Mid-term essay (week 6)
Final analysis paper (week 12)
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. An understanding of differences in the approaches to conceptualising economic processes by classic theorists and an appreciation for how our current economic paradigms are not definitive or without alternative but based in a particular intellectual development
  2. An understanding of the key mechanisms behind the 2007/2008 financial crisis coupled with a critical appraisal of the role of media outlets and public opinion makers in changing public perceptions
  3. An awareness of a changed deliberative space for political parties in advanced industrial/post-industrial societies and an understanding of the concept of a neoliberal consensus
  4. An ability to examine why particular policy directions are considered as without an alternative although clear alternatives exist
  5. An understanding of basic terminology used in economic arguments, without engaging with technical economics and an ability to apply the conceptual knowledge gained to real political proceedings in an analytical fashion
Learning Resources
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Jan Eichhorn
Tel: (0131 6)51 2921
Course secretaryMr Alexander Dysart
Tel: (0131 6)51 5197
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