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Essay 1

Please choose to write on either 1 or 2. Your essay should be 12-15 pages long, double-spaced. Please submit a hard copy by the start of class in Lecture 8.

  1. Can property rights arise in all times and all places? Why or why not? Explore this question by considering:
    • How property is defined?
    • What are the prerequisites for property?
    • How these prerequisites do or do not evolve through history.

    Lay out the alternative perspectives on these issues as they are presented in major theoretical traditions of political economy thus far considered in the class. You need not include every theorist, but present the major points of divergence between and within the paradigms.
  2. Economic growth is a phenomenon that both neo-classical economists and Marxists have analyzed. Consider:
    • How they define growth;
    • Where and when growth takes place;

    And mainly:
    • What contribution economic growth makes to human welfare. Consider explicitly whether economic growth contributes to freedom. What do the various analytic traditions conclude on this point?

Essay 2

Please submit the essay one day after Lecture 13. The authors we have read this term have different definitions and analyses of capitalism. In an essay, please consider:

  1. Whether these differences derive from differences in the underlying paradigms - or do even authors starting from the same basic assumptions about how to analyze society, economy, and politics come to divergent understandings of capitalism?
  2. Whether these views of capitalism actually matter for how scholars and practitioners today might approach problems that arise within contemporary capitalism. Lay out how you think they would evaluate evidence pertaining to the existence of and extent of the problem; and how they would design public policies for dealing with the issue. Please illustrate your points by focusing this second part of your essay on an example, drawn from one of the following issues in a capitalist society: unemployment, gender, race, public funding for research and development, or the integration of foreign workers.


No special expertise on the substantive issue you choose is required or expected. Also, please avoid just mapping the author's view directly onto our contemporary problem, e.g., saying that a Marxist could find no more to say about all this than that revolution will solve all.

Consider rather how a research agenda that starts with the basic assumptions of the paradigm - taken broadly - might analyze and prescribe for this issue. You need not cover all the authors, but be sure to include at least one approach that draws on the sociological/cultural traditions.