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PECN 3010 Positive Political Economy



Fall Semester, 2018

Professor:  Douglas Nelson

Office: Tilton 108 (Murphy Institute)

email: dnelson@tulane.edu

Phone: 865-5317

Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday, 3:30-5:30

Broadly speaking, Political Economy is the study of the interaction between the economy and the political system.  Given the interdisciplinary nature of this field, it is not surprising that there is an extremely wide array of schools (Liberal, Marxist, Statist, …), approaches (individualist, structuralist, functionalist, institutionalist, …), methodologies (formal/mathematical, quantitative/econometric, historical, …), et cetera.  There are at least equally many ways to organize an introductory course on this topic: we could attempt a survey, touching briefly on each of the multitude of combinations implied by the list above; we could examine a variety of issues from any one these; or we can take some middle approach.  One prominent approach that has become standard in contemporary research on political economy is rooted in rational individual choice from a strongly materialist perspective.  That is, it takes individuals, rationally pursuing their material self interest as the primary subjects of analysis.  This approach permits a straightforward connection between political analysis and standard economic analysis (especially general equilibrium theory).  We will develop this approach (sometimes called “endogenous policy theory”) in detail.  The main textbook (Shepsle) presents presents an analysis of a number of standard political science questions from the micro-analytic perspective, and to provide context, in each of the main sections of the course we will supplement the main textbook with readings taking other approaches.

Course objectives:

■This course introduces students to major approaches to the study of political economy.
■Students should be able to apply individual and social choice theoretic tools to the analysis of the interaction between economics and politics. These core tools will be applied to issues such as the financial crisis and the evolving political economy of gender.
■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 the following books:

K. Shepsle (2010). Analyzing Politics. New York: Norton.

C. Achen and L. Bartels (2016). Democracy for Realists. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

E.E. Schattschneider (1975). The Semisovereign People: A Realist’s View of Democracy in America. Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing Company.

T. Iversen and F. Rosenbluth (2011). Women, Work and Politics: The Political Economy of Gender Inequality. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Evaluation: Your performance in this course will be evaluated on the basis of two examinations (worth 100 points each); and two reaction papers (worth 50 points each).  Students earning 90% or more of the available credit will receive a grade of A. All scores will be rebased relative to the highest earned score and letter grades for scores below 90% of the un-normalized scores will be determined according to that distribution.

With regard to the examinations.  Each of the examinations will be made up of a number of identification and/or short-answer questions, and two or three essay questions that ask you to synthesize and apply material from the part of the course immediately preceding the examination.  The midterm examination will be given only on 16 October in class. The final examination will be given only on Saturday, 15 December 2018 at 1:00 pm.  Do not make travel or other plans that conflict with these dates.

With regard to the reaction papers. The subject of the reaction papers will be any two of the three supplementary books (i.e. one reaction paper per selected book). A reaction paper is a short paper discussing some aspect of the relevant reading, it is not a book report.  In the reaction paper you must explicitly discuss the relevant reading and evaluate some central aspect of its discussion.  Note: “evaluate” means that you must identify some central aspect of the books analysis, explain why you think this aspect is interesting/important, and present your evaluation of the author’s position (note that you must make an argument, simply asserting your agreement or disagreement will not be sufficient for a passing grade). The reaction papers are due in class on the first date scheduled for discussion of the readings (see syllabus), late papers will not be accepted and will earn a grade of zero.

A word of advice on the readings for the reaction papers.  Each of these is a book and, whether or not you choose to write a reaction paper on a given book, you are required to read all three.  It is a good idea to start reading the books early.  That is, trying to read a book in a week will make you unhappy and you will probably not do a good job on the reaction paper or have really understood the book for when we discuss it in class.

Honor code: All students are responsible for knowing and adhering to Tulane University’s Honor Code, available at http://www.tulane.edu/~jruscher/dept/Honor.Code.html .

Title IX Syllabus language: Tulane University recognizes the inherent dignity of all individuals and promotes respect for all people. As such, Tulane is committed to providing an environment free of all forms of discrimination including sexual and gender-based discrimination, harassment, and violence like sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and stalking. If you (or someone you know) has experienced or is experiencing these types of behaviors, know that you are not alone. Resources and support are available: you can learn more at titleix.tulane.edu.  Any and all of your communications on these matters will be treated as either “Confidential” or “Private” as explained in the chart below. Please know that if you choose to confide in me I am mandated by the university to report to the Title IX Coordinator, as Tulane and I want to be sure you are connected with all the support the university can offer. You do not need to respond to outreach from the university if you do not want. You can also make a report yourself, including an anonymous report, through the form at tulane.edu/concerns.

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.



Introduction to Political Economy

August 28, 30: General Course Introduction–Political Economy and Rational Choice

-Shepsle, Chapters 1 and 2

Part I: Group Choice

September 4, 6, 11: The General Analysis of Group Choice

-Shepsle, Chapters 3 and 4

September 13, 18, 20: Spatial Models of Majority Rule

-Shepsle, Chapter 5 (except pp. 123-141)

September 25, 27, October 2: Voting Methods and Electoral Systems

-Shepsle, Chapter 7

-Iversen and Soskice (2006). “Electoral Institutions and the Politics of Coalitions: Why Some Democracies Redistribute More than Others”. American Political Science Review;. V.11-#2, pp. 165-181.

October 4, 9: Collective Action and Democracy

-Achen & Bartels, Democracy for Realists.

October 11: No Class, Fall break

Midterm Examination: 16 October

Part II: Collective Action

October 18, 23: Some Simple Analytics of Cooperation

-Shepsle, Chapter 8

October 25, 30: The Collective Action Problem

-Shepsle, Chapter 9

-Offe, Claus and Helmut Wiesenthal (1980). “Two Logics of Collective Action: Theoretical Notes on Social Class and Organizational Form.” Political power and social theory, V.1-#1, 67-115.

November 1, 6: Group Politics & Democracy

-Schattschneider. Semisovereign People.

Part III: Institutional Analysis

November 8, 13: Strategic Action in Group Choice (Sophisticated Voting)

-Shepsle, Chapter 6

November 15, 20: Legislatures

-Shepsle, Chapter 11, Chapter 5, pp. 123-141, and Chapter 12

November 22: No class, Thanksgiving holiday

November 27, 29: Bureaucracies

-Shepsle, Chapter 13

December 4, 6: Political Economy of Gender Inequality

-T. Iversen and F. Rosenbluth (2011). Women, Work and Politics: The Political Economy of Gender Inequality.


Final Examination: Saturday, 15 December, 1:00-5:00