“Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas.” The ideas and doctrines shaping practical men’s mind according to Keynes in the preceding quote are the subject matter of this course. They deal with the order and meaning of social history, which is with men’s relation to the world and the hope of better living in our world, the quest for happiness in justice.

The objective of the course is to unveil, confront and discuss some of the ideas and doctrines embedded in the rhetoric of economics, in the abstract theories and systems economists like to dress their opinions and propositions. The purpose so is to re-appropriate subjects of discussion and opinions which must not be reserved for a science which too often claims monopoly on it. The side effect will also be to show the relativity of economic theories. The course is organized in a thematic way by confronting various perspectives, it does not concentrate on systematic contributions of authors and schools.

THEMES:

1. Economic Ideas, Worldly Philosophy and Economic Philosophy

2. Consumption and Happiness

3. Wealth and Scarcity

4. Labor and Production

5. Poverty and Misery

6. Economic Justice in Perspective

This semester, we will be focusing on American politics; we will not be tackling directly the day-to-day developments of the Trump presidency, but will explore the U.S. presidency itself, as a historical and political object. By studying texts by Richard Hofstadter, Arthur Schlesinger, C. Wright Mills and others, as well as extracts from speeches, T.V. shows and novels, we will try to understand the presidency as an institution, a political power but also as a social and cultural construct. This approach will enable us to analyze features of American contemporary political life while taking a step back from the immediacy of current events. 

 

Each week, students will be given texts to read, accompanied by vocabulary and reference notes as well as guiding questions. Vocabulary lists and grammar exercises will also be provided.