Economy and Society
General Catalog Course Title:
Economy and Society
Terms Offered:
Fall 2016
Spring 2016
Fall 2015
Spring 2015

 From Tahir Square to Zuccotti Park, people are demanding greater social accountability from the world’s financial institutions. Yet, at the same time, governments throughout the world are being pressured by sovereign debt crises to adopt neo-liberal policies that cut business taxes, deregulate markets and cut deeply into the social programs that historically supported the middle classes, as well as the safety net for the poor. The United States is in the early stages of recovery from the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression. But this recovery is producing new jobs at an anemic pace, the gap between the rich and the poor is widening even further, and government is cutting ever deeper into social programs. We are truly in a time of crisis, a crisis with deep economic roots. This course provides students with a sociological analysis of economic behavior that can be of use in making sense of this dramatic moment in world and U.S. history. In contrast to the neo-liberal economic model, which treats economic behavior as rational and markets as self-regulating, sociology shows that economic behavior is social behavior, and describes the many ways in which markets are constituted by social factors, including government policy, culture, and political mobilizations. Indeed, the ideology of the market as something separate from society—an idea at the heart of much of modern economics—is itself responsible for many of the instabilities and irrationalities of market behavior today. The sociological understanding of economic behavior underscores the importance of political mobilizations by workers, middle class citizens, environmentalists and others for the constitution of the social arrangements in which markets can function in a way that produces social stability. In this way, sociology is able to address the current economic crisis is both a time of danger and a time of opportunity. The course is organized around four units: 1. sociological theories of economic behavior; 2. the social constitution of markets; 3. the crisis of 2008; and 4. labor and the constitution of modern society. Course readings: Fligstein, Neil, The Architecture of Markets; MacLean and Nocera, All the Devils Are Here, course reader.

For more detailed information about classes, please visit the UC Berkeley Online Schedule of Classes.