Online course: What’s the Economy For, Anyway?

Whats The Economy For, Anyway? The Case for a Solidarity Economy and Social Wealth

A Summer Session Online Course offered by the Center for Popular Economics (June 2nd to July 10th, 2008)

This course offers 3 University of Massachusetts credits or 40- 60 Professional Development Points (in MA) or 3.6 Continuing Education Units (outside MA)

Course Fees: $900 for 3 credits or $400 for non-credit students. Limited scholarships are available for non-credit students.

Note: Thus course was offered in Summer 2008. Please write to CPE at for information on when it will be offered again.

Course description: (click here for a PDF of the course outline)

“The Economy” is often portrayed in the media and by politicians as a force of nature that we must adapt to or perish. But we, the ordinary people make our economy tick. Shouldn’t we have a say in how it is run and to what purpose? This online course raises the questions: what purpose do we want our economy to fulfill? Is it fulfilling this purpose today? If not, what can we do about it? What resources do we have available in order to effect our changes?

The course is comprised of three main parts. Part One takes a look at the performance of the current economic model, known to economists as “Neoliberalism.” Although our economic model has allowed unprecedented accumulation of wealth by a few, for the majority of us it has meant falling or stagnant wages, longer work hours, rising healthcare costs, and deterioration of our natural and social environment. We start with a look at the historical roots of neoliberalism and then try to understand the economics behind it.

In Part Two, we start talking about how some of the things that we saw going wrong in Part One can be set right. In the midst of growing inequality and corporate power, many grassroots economic alternatives have been springing up throughout the U.S. as well as the rest of the world. This is the new “Solidarity Economy.” Grounded in principles of economic democracy, social solidarity, cooperation, egalitarianism, and sustainability, it is an alternative to the Neoliberal vision of the economy. In this part of the course we will look at some examples of such alternatives as well as understand the economics behind them.

Building alternatives requires resources. But part of the neoliberal agenda is the diverting of economic resources into fewer and fewer hands. Where will the resources for alternatives come from? In Part Three we talk about a vast store of assets that communities everywhere possess and on which they can draw for constructing alternatives. This store, which we call “social wealth” consists of our cultural and ecological commons and our capacity to work for those we care about. We will also look at how the economics of the care economy or the cultural commons differs from the economics of corporations.

The online course provides 3 undergraduate credits in economics through Continuing Education. Click here for a more detailed list of topics being covered.