The Economics of Racial (In)Justice

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This course is under review for 2021. Course registration will open to accepted students once courses are confirmed.

Course Description

Who wins and loses in the American economy? How does the economy exploit and dominate some groups while continuing to bestow profits and gains on others? What can we do to make the economy more just? These are some of the questions we will explore in this class. At a time of rising populism, trade wars, and racial tension, this class gives students the tools to make sense of contemporary problems. Students will be able to understand what it means for the Fed to raise interest rates and the winners and losers from such policies. The class offers a history of race relations in America and an understanding of the basic economic principles that can dominate groups or can help achieve justice.

This class brings together a study of race relations in the US and an overview of political economy. What this means is that we study the rise of the modern economy with a keen eye to the winners, the losers, and the heroes that made it what it is.

The first part of the class is the history of the economy as told by Karl Polanyi and W.E.B. Du Bois. The two authors give us a sense of how we came to quantify land, labor, and capital, and the exploitation of slaves and peasants upon which this quantification depended. Part two is about the contemporary economy through a study of Michel Foucault, Mark Blyth, Cornel Ban, and Greta Krippner. These authors help us see the new distribution of loss and gain. They show us the key assumptions that are riddled in our ideas of inflation, independent central banks, corruption, and credit. Finally, we turn to the work of contemporary authors like Danielle Allen to think about how we can move forward. What tools do we have to make society more just? How can we restructure the economy so that it no longer depends on the exploitation of people of color?

The course serves as a beginning point for those who are eager to study economics, political science, or race relations. We will read some of the most important thinkers in the field of political science, but the class will also unpack the core assumptions of the modern economy.

The course is intended to make students more confident and capable in discussing important contemporary issues in any forum. The issues studied in this class are important for anyone who reads newspapers, shops at the grocery store, or has neighbors. The class seeks to make you more aware of the ways that your everyday actions are part of a broader economic framework and the ways you can inhabit this framework to make it more inclusive and more just. On a more general level, this class develops students’ reading, writing, and communication abilities. These skills are important for any career.

Prerequisites: At least one year of high school English and Social Studies is highly recommended, specifically, American history.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEPS0987
  • Length: 2 weeks

Program Information

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Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences, offering over 200 non-credit courses, one- to four-weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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