Seminar in Political Economy
Political Science 6448, Spring 2015

   Dave Robertson, Office: 801 Tower,
   Ph: 314-516-5855, Fax: 314-516-7236,

    Office Hours: 10:30-11:30 Monday & Wednesday;
    9-noon Thursday - and  I'm happy to meet at
    other times that  suit your schedule
  Link to
The Political Economy Bibliography
 Class meets in the Political Science conference room,
          Wednesdays, 6:55-9:35 pm

·         "No nation was ever ruined by trade"    --- Benjamin Franklin

·         "The merchant has no country"               --- Thomas Jefferson

·         "Microsoft and the government were the perfect opponents. The government has  some power,  but Microsoft has at least as much. Anyone else facing either one  of them would have been overmatched." 
--- David Boies, lead trial lawyer  for the U.S. government
               in the Microsoft anti-trust case
( New York Times, June 9, 2000,  1)

·         "Follow the money"  
         --- "Deep Throat"
[W. Mark Felt] to Bob Woodward,
in All the President's Men


1. Course Description. When the word "politics" meets the word “economics,” they spark insights into our most fundamental issues: freedom, security, order, justice, and democracy. In Political Economy & Public Policy, we will examine how the struggles for power and for wealth affect one another and the development of politics.  We will compare and contrast evolving ideas about the way political and market solutions address our common problems.  We will explore the way economic disasters, ideas about prosperity, and the institutions we create shape the big struggles for power and wealth and the less obvious struggles to craft a national budget. We will emphasize that these struggles play out in different ways in different nations across time, while focusing on the United States as our chief case..

2. Books. The following books are required for the course:

 3. Grading. Grades will be allocated in the following way:

-         Participation 20%

-         2 Short Papers 10% each     

-         Seminar paper or Research Design 40%

-         Final Exam 20%

4. Participation. You are expected to attend all seminar sessions, to have the readings and the discussion questions for each session prepared, and to contribute thoughtful and informed questions comments to the discussion. If you do so you will receive an "A" for this part of the grade. Remember, this seminar will succeed only to the extent that you participate. Its success depends on you. Everyone is especially expected to participate actively in the budget exercise on April 29.

You will be responsible for preparing for one or two predetermined questions for each seminar.  To prepare questions for class, be ready to talk about why the question is important, two alternative answers to the question, and the reason that you think one answer is better than others. You do not have to hand in a written answer to the question.  The discussion questions will be available at the preceding class, and placed on the "Detailed Course Outline," below. 

5. Short Book Review Papers. There will be two short (6-10 page, typed) papers for the course. These papers are due February 25 and April 15.  The first is a book review. There are lots of books to choose from (see the The Political Economy Bibliography). You should choose books that you are eager to read, and/or are critically important for your research paper. For the second paper, you can do one of two things: (1) a book review of a second book or (2) an analysis of some issue that is relevant to your larger research project.  You should get the book approved no later than 2 weeks before the paper are due. The book or books can be part of the literature you review for the final seminar paper.  They should not be books required for another class.

To write the book review:

No more than half the paper should summarize the argument; the rest should critique the book by assessing its strengths and weaknesses, and drawing appropriate connection to other scholarship. 


a. Summarize the book’s content (no more than half the paper) by answering the following questions: (a) What is the topic? (b) How would you summarize the key arguments and the evidence for them? (c) What does the author conclude? (d) how does this book relate to other readings or topics in the course?


b. Analyze the book by answering the following questions: (a) Does the author make a persuasive case for her central point? (b) Is the evidence adequate? (c) does the author use evidence and treat other authors in a fair way? (d) What parts of the argument are most effective? Which are least effective? (e) What are the implications of this argument for understanding politics?

6. Seminar paper or research design.

Option 1 is a conventional research paper (17-20 pages) on a topic of interest to you and related to politics and the economy in the broadest sense. (The requirements for the topic paragraph and references are the same as the research design assignment below). By February 11 at the latest, turn in a paragraph in which you (1) specify the research question, and (2) discuss your plan for finding an answer, including evidence and logic. A bibliography and an outline are due on March 18. The paper is due on May 11.

Option 2 is a research design. See below.

7. Exam. There will be a take home final exam. The test consists of two essay questions that require a 6-10 page answer each. You will have the questions in advance, and you will have a week to compose your answers. It is due Thursday, May 14.

8. Additional Information on Political Economy. For a more extensive bibliography with some links to major sources of information, go to The Political Economy Bibliography.

- The Research Design Assignment -


The research design assignment requires a 17-20 page research proposal based on answers to the following questions. You will not have to turn in a completed research project -- only a rigorous plan for such a project.


Here are the key elements of the research design. Remember, the methods you use should be directly related to the question you are trying to answer. Qualitative methods may be more appropriate than quantitative methods, or the quantitative methods may be more appropriate. You might use rigorous analysis of archival sources, or you might model data. You might use some of both methods.


1. Topic and Central Question. In the lead paragraph, explain precisely what topic you will examine. What is the central question that will motivate your research? Your question should explore why things happened (not just description of what happened).  Explain why it matters (it may matter because it is central to scientific theory, because it is a central policy or political issue today, because it was a decisive turning point in political development, or because conventional wisdom about the topic may be wrong). There are many ways to get ideas for topics.  Several are included in our readings. You can find others in key journals, such as The American Political Science Review or other general political science journals, or more specialized journals your topic should be interesting to you.  You are very welcome to try out dissertation ideas.


2. Literature Review. What do we know about this topic? Who has written about it? What are their central arguments and assertions? What are the key concepts? What are the important open questions in the field? (Sources include bibliographies, literature reviews, computer-assisted references, and discussions with faculty).


3. Theoretical Question. Once you have chosen a topic, you have to specify the problem you want to study.  You will have to try to isolate one precise question about the topic to answer in a discrete research project. Precisely what question will your research try to answer? This may take the form of a relationship between a dependent variable and several independent variables (that is, Why did something happen the way it did? What caused it? Factor A? Factor B? Some combination?). It also may take the form of the relationship between two non-recurring events. 


(a) - What behaviors, event, or outcomes are you trying to explain?

         (b) - What behaviors, events or outcomes can account for (a), above?

         (c) - What is the relationship between (a) and (b)?  For example,

                 (1) For (a) to occur, was (a) necessary and / or sufficient?

                 (2) Does (a) occur more frequently when (b) occurs?

                 (3) Does (a) occur more frequently when (b) occurs?

                 (4) Does (b) determine (a) (when a happens, b necessarily happens)?


(d) - What other factors may need to be taken into account?


4. Information. What information will you collect to answer the central theoretical question? Define 3 (a) and 3 (b) precisely. How do I know them when I see them (are they Congressional votes? If so, precisely which ones? Where can I find them?). Specify why historical information is required to answer the question.


5. Techniques. How will you analyze the question? That is, what is your proposed research strategy answering the question? How will you decide that a relationship between (a) and (b) is confirmed or refuted by the evidence? Will you statistically assess the relationship between variables? If so, how? If not, what qualitative methods will you use to rigorously assess their relationship? Will you use a mixture of methods? How will you assess the role of other factors (3 d).


6. Validity and Objectivity. How do you know that your conclusions will be valid? Are there flaws in your method that could cast doubt on your findings about the relationship of (a) and (b)? How do we know that the numbers and documents offer reasonably reliable measures of what you claim they measure? What explicit steps will you take to assure a reader that you are being fair-minded and objective in each step of the process?


7. What is the projected outline of the final written product?


8. What timetable will you have for the project? Give a realistic estimate of the time it will take to complete each step above.


9. Provide a bibliography.


The Course in Brief

Click on date for details for each class; "[MG]" indicates a document in the "My Documents" section of My Gateway

January 21: Introduction: Politics and Markets

January 28: How the Economy is Political -- and Why

February 4: Foundations of American Political Economy

    Submission of a book title for the first short paper due

February 11:  Systems in Crisis: Industrialization

     Topic for the final paper Due

February 18:  Business, Labor, & Progressivism

February 25:  Systems in Crisis: Depression and New Deal

      Short Paper 1 Due

March 4: Managed Capitalism

March 11:  Systems in Crisis: Stagflation and the Economic Approach to Politics

March 18: Neo-Liberalism and the Land of Too Much

     Research Bibliography & Outline for final paper due

March 25:    Spring Break; Class does not meet

April  1: The Welfare State     

    Submission of a book title or topic for the second short paper due

April  8Regulation

April  15: Globalization, the Financial Crisis and the Recession

        Short Paper 2 Due

April 22:  Institutional Stability and Change, Power, & the State

April 29: The Budget & the Deficit

May  6Inequality and Conclusion

May 11 (Monday):  Final Paper due by 5 pm

May 14 (Thursday):  Take Home Exam Due