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PECN 3020, Political Economy: Historical Perspectives





PECN 3020

Political Economy: Historical Perspectives


Professor: Douglas Nelson

Office: Tilton 108 (Murphy Institute), Phone: 865-5317

Office Hours: Monday and Wednesday, 3:00-5:00

Phone: 865-5317

email: dnelson@tulane.edu

Webpage: http://nelson.wp.tulane.edu/


While the development of sophisticated field and laboratory experiments in the social sciences are increasingly throwing light on significant hypotheses in the social sciences, it remains the case that for most large scale hypotheses history is the only viable source of empirical evidence for evaluating those hypotheses. There are a large number of such hypotheses in macro political economy: the fundamental role of class struggle, or inter-industrial struggle, or inter-regional struggle in defining the dynamic trajectory of political economies; the consistency (or inconsistency) of capitalism and democracy; the efficiency (and, thus, welfare superiority) of minimally invasive government; the efficiency of complementary political and economic institutions (varieties of capitalism); Polanyi’s double movement; and many, many others. Of course, history can be deployed in many ways to study such hypotheses. The most common is surely comparative historical analysis of the sort we find in the classic analyses of scholars like Moore, Bendix, Skocpol, Anderson, Tilly and Mann. Those analyses consider a wide range of countries, domains of political economic conflict and countries in an effort to find significant commonalities and differences. In this course we pursue a different strategy. We consider one country (the United States) and two issue areas (international trade policy and international migration policy) over the entire history of the US. What we lose in terms of generalizability, we gain in terms of sustained focus.

PECN 3020 is one of the core courses in the political economy major. I will assume that you have had exposure to economic analysis at least at a level consistent with principles of microeconomics and macroeconomics. I will also assume that you are comfortable with algebra and geometry. Some of the readings and some of the lectures may make use of somewhat more advanced mathematics. I will not expect you to be able to reproduce such analysis on an exam, however I will expect you to make a good faith effort to understand what is being argued and to be able to express informally what the basic argument is, and how it fits into the broader goals of the course.

Course objectives:

 ■This course introduces students to the historical analysis of the interaction between economics and politics with particular application to international trade immigration policy in the US.

 ■Students should be able to apply a variety of modern theoretical and empirical approaches to the analysis of core issues in historical, macro political economy. Specifically, students should understand that political and economic institutions co-evolve in response to systemic challenges and that the new structures that evolve create a new set of dynamics and constraints when new challenges occur.

 ■Students should be able to identify core controversies in the analysis of these issues and should develop theoretical frameworks, historical and quantitative data sufficient to support making well-grounded evaluations of those controversies.

Readings for the course will be drawn from:

 Douglas Irwin (2017). The Battle over U.S. Trade Policy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. [Irwin]

 Aristide Zolberg (2006). A Nation By Design: Immigration Policy in the Fashioning of America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. [Zolberg]

 Peter Schrag (2010). Not Fit for Our Society: Immigration and Nativism in America. Berkeley: University of California Press. [Schrag]

An excellent supplementary reading treating the history of US trade policy from a political perspective is:

Johnson, C. Donald (2018). The Wealth of a Nation: A History of Trade Politics in America. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. [Johnson]

Johnson is not required for this course, but I will note where chapters from this book fit for those interested in a more political perspective.

Evaluation: Your performance in this course will be evaluated on the basis of 2 examinations (worth 100 points each); and 1 paper (worth 100 points). To receive an A, you must earn at least 90 percent of the points available. To pass the course you must earn at last 60 percent of the points available. Grades between these limits will be determined on the basis of your performance relative to that of the class as a whole.

Examination format. Both exams will have the following format: about 40% short answer questions and about 60% essays. In general there will be more questions of both types than must be answered, so you will have some choice (though there is often one mandatory question which everyone must answer). Exams must be written in blue books, which you must supply.

Policy on examinations. The midterm exam will be given on 5 October. Unless you have a standard university accepted excuse for missing the exam (e.g. health), you must take the exams at their scheduled time. If you missthe first two exams there will be a makeup exam (given during finals week). Note: to be eligible to take a makeup exam you must have a legitimate excuse for having missed the regular exam. The final examination will only be given on the scheduled date: Friday, 17 December 12:00-3:00 (there will be no exceptions so do not make travel plans that conflict with this).

Research paper. Every student in the course is required to produce a research paper on some aspect of the political economy trade and/or migration policy considered historically. Thus, you might want to pursue some historical episode of trade policy in more detail, or develop an interpretation alternative (or complementary) to those developed in the readings or lectures. Alternatively, you might develop a comparative analysis of immigration policy in another country over some well-defined historical period (e.g. Argentina’s immigration policy at the end of the 19th century). Whatever you choose, remember that the core of the paper must be positive political-economic analysis. These papers must be original work, plagiarism will not be tolerated. Broadly speaking, I expect papers in the 15-20 page range (i.e. about 3,750-5,000 words). To ensure that topics are well-established and suitable for the course, I require a proposal due no later than the fifth week of the course (i.e. 21 September). Late proposals will result in a 10 point penalty to be assessed on the paper’s final score. Research papers are due at the last regular meeting of the course (i.e. 2 December). Late papers will not be accepted, and will earn a score of 0 points.

Some Good Advice (At No Extra Charge): First, keep current with the reading. Second, ask questions in class. If you read something and it is unclear and then it is unclear during lecture, ask about it. Your classmates will probably thank you. This is one of the few ways, before an exam, that I can gauge how the material is getting across. Finally, come see me during my office hours. This is another opportunity to get clarification and help on material about which you are unclear. But don’t wait until the last minute, by then it is usually too late.


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Tulane University strives to make all learning experiences as accessible as possible. If you anticipate or experience academic barriers based on your disability, please let me know immediately so that we can privately discuss options. I will never ask for medical documentation from you to support potential accommodation needs. Instead, to establish reasonable accommodations, I may request that you register with the Goldman Center for Student Accessibility.  After registration, make arrangements with me as soon as possible to discuss your accommodations so that they may be implemented in a timely fashion. Goldman Center contact information: goldman@tulane.edu; (504) 862-8433; accessibility.tulane.edu.

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The Code of Academic Conduct applies to all undergraduate students, full-time and part-time, in Tulane University. Tulane University expects and requires behavior compatible with its high standards of scholarship. By accepting admission to the university, a student accepts its regulations (i.e., Code of Academic Conduct and Code of Student Conduct) and acknowledges the right of the university to take disciplinary action, including suspension or expulsion, for conduct judged unsatisfactory or disruptive.

Religious Accommodation Policy

Per Tulane’s religious accommodation policy (with hyperlink), I will make every reasonable effort to ensure that students are able to observe religious holidays without jeopardizing their ability to fulfill their academic obligations. Excused absences do not relieve the student from the responsibility for any course work required during the period of absence. Students should notify me within the first two weeks of the semester about their intent to observe any holidays that fall on a class day or on the day of the final exam.


SACS-Related Material

I am aware that Tulane students are able to read a standard university syllabus and determine the content of the course and its relation to the major and the individual student’s course of study. However, the administration of Tulane University, along with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS–which “accredits” primary and secondary schools as well as all varieties of 2 and 4 year undergraduate programs [with very little in the way of adjustment in rubrics, metrics, etc.]), has determined that you require additional information. I collect this material in a separate section so that you can refer to it, or discard it, as you consider appropriate.

STUDENT OBJECTIVES/OUTCOMES: By the end of the course, the student should be able to think, speak, and write fluently and competently about the ideas and issues covered in the course (as reflected in the course description and the syllabus). The student should have a solid understanding of the social, political, economic, and philosophical significance of ideas and concepts in the analysis of modern democratic, capitalist political economies and they should be familiar with major ideas and theories regarding explanations, interpretations, applications, and criticisms of work on democratic, capitalist political economies. The student should be able to formulate critical views concerning these issues and respond fluently and competently to questions concerning these views.


1. Students will be able to identify and recognize major themes, ideas, and concepts.

2. Students will analyze, interpret, and discuss these ideas in a scholarly and coherent manner.

3. Students will construct, formulate, and develop creative and critical scholarly assessments.

4. Students will appraise, evaluate, and appreciate the values and consequences of these ideas.


PECN 3020                                    SYLLABUS                                        Fall 2021


Topic I. Introduction to the Study of History and Political Economy

● 24 August: Why Study History for Political Economy

■ McCloskey (1976). “Does the Past Have Useful Economics?” Journal of Economic Literature, V.14-#2, 434-61.

Nunn (2009). “The Importance of History for Economic Development.” Annual Review of Economics, V.1-#1, 65-92.

■ Gopnik (2014). “Does It Help to Know History,” New Yorker, online article.

● 26 August: The Long View of American Political Development

■ McCormick (1986). “Political Parties in American History,” in The Party Period and Public Policy. New York: Oxford University Pres, 143-96. [Canvas]

■ Brady and Han (2006). “Polarization Then and Now: A Historical Perspective,” in P. S. Nivola and D. W. Brady eds, Red and Blue Nation: Characteristics and Causes of America’s Polarized Politics. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 119-51. [Canvas]

● 14 September: The Long View of Structural Change and Globalization

■ Gordon (2016). “The Ascent and Descent of Growth”. Chapter 1 of The Rise and Fall of American Growth. Princeton: PUP.

■ Lindert and Williamson (2016). “Unequal Gains: American Growth and Inequality since 1700”. VOXeu post.

■ Bordo, Eichengreen and Irwin (1999). “Is Globalization Today Really Different from 100 Years Ago?,” in R. Lawrence and S. Collins eds, Brookings Trade Forum–1999. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1-71.

○ Baldwin (2013). “Trade and Industrialisation after Globalisation’s Second Unbundling: How Building and Joining a Supply Chain Are Different and Why It Matters,” in R. C. Feenstra and A. M. Taylor eds, Globalization in an Age of Crisis: Multilateral Economic Cooperation in the Twenty-First. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 165-212.

● 16 September: A quick review of some basic economics

● 21 September: Some Simple Analytics for PE of Migration

■ Zolberg, Chapter 1

■ Gaston and Nelson (2000). “Immigration and Labour Market Outcomes in the United States: A Political-Economy Puzzle.” Oxford Review of Economic Policy, V.16-#3, 104-14.

23-26 September: Tulane Fall Break

● 28 & 30 September: Some Simple Analytics for PE of Trade

■ Irwin, Introduction

● 5 October: Time, Institutions, Group Identity, Culture, etc.

■ Thelen (1999). “Historical Institutionalism in Comparative Politics.” Annual Review of Political Science, V.2-#1, 369-404.

■ McCormick (1974). “Ethno-Cultural Interpretations of Nineteenth-Century American Voting Behavior.” Political Science Quarterly, V.89-#2, 351-77.

■ Achen & Bartels (2016). “Democracy for Realists: Holding Up A Mirror to the Electorate”. Juncture, V.22-#4, pp. 269-275.

7 October: Midterm Exam

Topic II. The Early Development of US Trade & Migration Policy

● 12 & 14 October: September: Trade and Migration in the Colonial Period

■ Irwin, Chapter 1

■ Zolberg, Chapter 2

● 19 & 21 October: Trade and Migration in the Young Republic

■ Irwin, Chapter 2

■ Zolberg, Chapter 3 & 4

■ Schrag, Chapter 2

○ Johnson, Chapter 1 & 2

● 26 & 28 October: Sectional Crisis and the Politics of Trade and Migration

■ Irwin, Chapters 3 & 4

■ Zolberg, Chapters 5 & 6

○ Johnson, Chapter 3

● 2 & 4 November: Trade, Migration and Industrialization

■ Irwin, Chapters 5 & 6

■ Zolberg, Chapter 7

■ Schrag, Chapter 3

○ Johnson, Chapter 4 & 5

9 November: No class

● 11 & 16 November: The Inter-War Years: Drift & Global Crisis

■ Irwin, Chapters 7 & 8

■ Zolberg, Chapter 8

■ Schrag, Chapter 4

○ Johnson, Chapter 6

Topic III. US Trade & Migration Policy in the Post-War Period

● 18 & 30 November: The US Transformed: Liberalizing Trade and Migration Policy

■ Irwin, Chapters 9 & 10

■ Zolberg, Chapter 9

■ Schrag, Chapter 5

○ Johnson, Chapter 7-14

22-28 November: Thanksgiving Holiday

● 2 &7 December: Liberalization Takes off

■ Irwin, Chapter 11

■ Zolberg, Chapter 9

○ Johnson, Chapter 15

● 9 & 14 December: Greater Globalization, Growing Unease

■ Irwin, Chapter 12

■ Zolberg, Chapter 10

○ Johnson, Chapter 16 (486-503)

● 16 December: Globalization Backlash

■ Irwin, Chapter 13

■ Zolberg, Chapter 11

■ Schrag, Chapter 6

○ Johnson, Chapter 16 (503-527)

● 20 December: TPP, TTIP, Walls, etc.

■ Irwin, Conclusion

■ Zolberg, Conclusion

■ Schrag, Chapter 7 & Epilogue

○ Johnson, Conclusion


Final Examination: Friday, 17 December 12:00-3:00pm.