Macroeconomics: a Critical Introduction
Macroeconomic policy—from “quantitative easing” to fiscal austerity to basic understandings of growth, interest, inflation, and productivity—impacts everyday lives. It affects one’s job, wage, and even political rights and obligations. Understanding macroeconomic concepts, data, theories, and policies help us make sense of the ways in which the economy works in the real world. At the same time, macroeconomic ideas are historically produced, influenced by theories that rise and fade in popularity, and which are mediated by national and international power relations. However univocal policy makers may seem, there is in fact widespread disagreement on monetary and fiscal policy. Moreover, no economy is self-contained—to understand the function of international commerce, the balance of payments, and the importance of the US dollar, we have to situate macroeconomics within the context of an international division of labor. What are the elements of macroeconomics? And, how can an understanding of the theories and concepts of mainstream macroeconomics—as well as their limitations and critiques—help us make sense of “the economy” today?
In this course, we will explore the historical origins, essential components, mainstream theories, and heterodox critiques of macroeconomics. We’ll begin with basic economic and national accounting concepts, such as: supply and demand, gross domestic product, money, and inflation. Then we will explore classical and neoclassical theories of supply and demand, money and employment. From there, we’ll review what’s probably the single greatest seismic event in modern economics–the Great Depression. In what ways was it a real-world repudiation of neoclassical theory? What theories of money, employment, and effective demand did John Maynard Keynes propose as alternatives? How, then and since, can we understand the respective roles of monetary and fiscal policy in managing and growing a capitalist economy? Lastly, taking a structural view, we’ll focus on the relationships between GDP, international trade, and balance of payments. As we go, we’ll return constantly to the question: What are the contributions and limits of mainstream and Keynesian approaches to macroeconomics?
Readings will be drawn from Ha-Joon Chang’s Economics: a User’s Guide, Alfred Marshall’s The Principles of Economics, John Maynard Keynes’s The General Theory of Employment, Money, and Interest, and William Mitchell, Randall Wray, and Martin Watts’ Macroeconomics, among other sources.
Macroeconomics: a Critical Introduction will also run on Thursdays, from 6:30-9:30pm EST, starting February 3rd. For more information, please visit the course page.
Course ScheduleMonday, 6:30-9:30pm EST
January 31 — February 21, 2022