What’s the economy for, anyway? (An online course on the topic)

If you have ever asked yourself…

What’s the Economy For, Anyway?
What should a well-functioning economy do?
What’s behind lower wages and longer working hours?
Should we, ordinary folk have any say in running our own economy?
How do we build a more just and sustainable economy?

…then this course is for you!

What’s The Economy For, Anyway? The Case for a Solidarity Economy and Social Wealth
An Online Course offered by the Center for Popular Economics
Summer Session I (June 2 – July 10, 2008)
Course Fee: $900 for THREE Univ. of Massachusetts Credits or $400 for non-credit students.
40-60 Professional Development Points (in MA) or 3.6 Continuing Education Credits (outside MA) available.
Limited scholarships available for non-credit students.

The Center for Popular Economics, in collaboration with the Forum on Social Wealth and the Political Economy Research Institute at Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst is offering a special topics 3-credit online course (Econ 197) this Summer. The course runs from Monday, June 2nd till Thursday July 10th. No background in Economics is required. The course is suited for students as well as activists and community members who want to learn more about the economy. An overview of the course is presented below. For more details contact Amit Basole or Emily Kawano.

Overview: “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, this 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.