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Political Economy of the Great Recession and its Aftermath


We consider contemporary comparative political economy and macroeconomics through the lens of the past decade and a half, in which advanced industrial economies experienced massive technological change, speculative bubbles, financial crises, prolonged recessions, and widening inequality, as well as renewed debate on the appropriate role of government in managing the business cycle. Emerging from this period, these countries face deep questions about the future of work in an era of automation, globalism in a time of xenophobia, and democracy under the rise of populism. Through discussion and papers on a mixture of popular and academic readings, we tackle three key questions: What happened during the financial crisis, what political economic changes followed in its wake, and what’s next?


Political Economy of the Great Recession and its Aftermath

Offered occasionally at the
University of Washington



Spring 2019

Class meets:
TTh 10:30 am–12:20 pm
Smith Hall 107

Lectures           PDFs of slides are best viewed in Adobe Acrobat, rather than in your browser.

Day 1

Course Introduction  

Day 2

Contours of Change  

Day 3

Economics of the Financial Crisis, Part 1  

In discussing the answers to last week’s quiz, we will also consider a brief “reaction paper” I wrote regarding limits to the concept of moral hazard.

Day 4

Economics of the Financial Crisis, Part 2  

As you relive the financial crisis of the late 2000s, here are three recent news articles to ponder: on corporate debt, on the credibility of banking regulation, and on the weakening of post-crisis reforms.

Day 5

Politics of the Financial Crisis, Part 1  

Day 6

Politics of the Financial Crisis, Part 2  

Day 7

Stimulus, Austerity, and Recovery in the US  

See also this timely book review dealing with the continuing debate over the Obama administration’s decision to seek a smaller-than-economically-indicated stimulus.

Day 8

The Euro, Austerity, and Crisis, Part 1  

A handy summary of key economic indicators for selected countries involved in the Eurocrisis (and a reference case) before the crisis, at the peak of the crisis, and today.

Day 9

The Euro, Austerity, and Crisis, Part 2  

Day 10

Automation, Skills, and Inequality  

See also this timely and fascinating review of the “overwork premium” and its strongly gendered consequences. The article contains many links to recent studies. Pay close attention to Claudia Goldin’s arguments. (How do they relate to Goldin and Katz’s book, which we read this week?)

Regarding automation, see also two videos exploring the debate between economists and “futurists”: one from CGP Gray and a more recent entry from Vox Media.

Day 11

Capital’s Return, Part 1  

To help calibrate our understanding of just how long lasting the benefits of inherited wealth can be, consider England, where direct descendants of the Norman conquerors of 1066 retain significant economic advantages, and where a tiny fraction of (often aristocratic) landowners still hold most of the land.

Days 12 & 13

Capital’s Return, Parts 2 & 3  

Day 14

Democratic Responsiveness and Economic Change, Part 1  

Day 15

Democratic Responsiveness and Economic Change, Part 2  

Day 16

Democracy, Capitalism, and Skills  

Day 17

Economic Change and Populism  

Please also read these insightful articles from the Washington Post and the New York Times on the closure of the Lordstown GM plant and the impact of Youngstown-area workers.

My findings on metro-level presidential partisan swings in the 2016 US presidential election can be replicated by running this R script on data scraped by Tony McGovern from Townhall.com and The Guardian (last accessed 14 May 2017).

Day 18

Solutions to 21st Century Problems, Part 1  

Day 19

Solutions to 21st Century Problems, Part 2  

Day 20

Solutions to 21st Century Problems, Part 3  

Linked above are the questions submitted by the class of Spring 2019. You may also be interested in the questions asked by classes in Spring 2017 and Winter 2015.

Student Assignments

Reaction Papers

Due on Pre-arranged Dates

For three pre-arranged class meetings, students will turn in a 2–3 page “reaction paper” addressing that day’s readings. To receive full credit, this paper must be more than a summary of arguments from the readings. A good reaction paper can take several forms: you might choose to critique one or more readings closely, to compare and contrast the arguments and findings of several readings, or to place the readings in a broader context, including earlier readings in the course. Reaction papers are due at the beginning of class; late papers will not be accepted.

Final Paper  

Due 11 June 2019, 3 pm, 101 Gowen Hall

Students will write a longer (approximately 10–12 page) paper drawing on the course readings to answer an assigned question. Papers that clearly develop an argument and support that argument with well-sourced and explained evidence will receive the highest marks. Papers that fail to make a clear argument, that provide only weak, poorly explained, or poorly sourced evidence, or that suffer from serious deficits in writing will be marked down accordingly.

University of Washington link

CSSS Center for Statistics and the Social Sciences link

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