Introduction to Social Economy:

Corporate Sovereignty and Its Alternatives

Course Description

This course is an introductory graduate course to the fields of social economy and social justice. It is tailored to the interests of students in our Social Economy and Social Justice program and offers literacy in the broad area of political economy that is essential to all students interested in critical sociology. It does not presuppose prior training in political economy.

The focus of the course will be on the transnational corporation as a hegemonic political and social entity within the larger context of contemporary global capitalism. We live in a new condition of corporate sovereignty. The course examines how corporate power and ideology pervade all dimensions of social life, and how market forces and values are eroding democracy, equality, and community in America and throughout the world. The course looks at the rise of the working poor and the intractably poor as a fixture of American life (and much of the developing world), as well as the erosion of the social contract creating economic security for much of the "middle class." In addition to a major focus on class, the course also examines how gender and race relations are being recast within the current corporate order. The concluding focus is on economic alternatives and on social movements that are arising to challenge corporate sovereignty.

The course reconceptualizes the global corporation from the perspective of both political and social economy. This implies a new perspective on: the social and political character of the emerging global economy and a new look at the meaning of development, the social resources - such as social capital - central to economic behavior (a central aspect of the field of social economy), the social and public character of the corporation (including a concern with the legal foundation of the corporation), and emerging transformative social and political forces that can democratize and humanize the corporation and larger political economy.

The course will be run as a seminar with extensive student participation. The main requirements beyond the readings are a midterm take-home essay and a final paper of about 20 pages. The paper will allow the student to do a research study on a topic of political and social economy close to his/her heart.


(In bookstore and on library reserve)

  • Aronowitz, Up From the Ashes: On the New Labor Movement
  • Barnet and Cavanaught, Global Dreams
  • Brecher and Costello, Global Village or Global Pillage
  • Bluestone and Bluestone, Negotiating the Future
  • Greider, One World, Ready or Not
  • Harrison, Lean and Mean
  • Kuttner, The Economic Illusion
  • Reich, The Work of Nations
  • Derber, The Incorporation of America (Course Packet)
  • Vogel, Japan as Number One

Course Readings

  1. Introduction: Political and Social Economy
    1. Political and Social Economy: Markets vs. People [Week 1]
    2. Political Capitalism: Capitalism as a Social Movement [Week 2]
      • Kolko, The Triumph of Conservatism, passim
      • Sklar, The Corporate Reconstruction of Capitalism, Chap. 1
  2. Who Runs the World? The New Global Economy and the
        Corporatization of "Development"
    1. The Global Web: The New International Division of Labor and the Neo-Classical Argument for Globalization [Week 3]
      • Reich, The Work of Nations, Chapters 10-12
      • Krugman, Pop Internationalism
    2. Working the Globe: Multinational Corporations, Global Financial Markets, and the Fate of the Global Worker [Week 4]
      • Greider, One World, Ready or Not, Chaps. 1-4; 11-14;
      • Barnet and Cavanaugh, Global Dreams, Part III (optional)
    3. The Race to the Bottom: The Dark Side of the Global Economy [Week 4]
      • Brecher and Costello, Global Village or Global Pillage, Chaps.1-6
      • Harrison, Lean and Mean, Chaps. 1-9
  3. The American Dream at Risk: Corporate Sovereingty and Social Decline
    1. New Robber Barons?: Global Corporations and Power in America [Week 5]
      • Derber, The Incorporation of America, Chaps 1-4 (Course Packet)
      • Anderson and Cavanaugh, The Top 200 (pamphlet)
    2. What is the Corporation For? And Who Decides?: The Origins, Purposes, and Control of the Modern Corporation [Week 6]
      1. Derber, The Incorporation of America, Chaps. 6-8 (Course Packet)
      2. Bowman, American Political Thought and the Modern Corporation,  (Chaps. 1-5 - optional)
    3. Inequality and Abandonment: America's Ruling Class and the End of the Social Contract [Week 7]
      • Reich, Work of Nations, Chapters 14, 17, 21, 24
      • Derber, The Incorporation of America, Chap. 5 (Packet)
      • Harrison, Lean and Mean, Chapter 9 (optional)
  4. The Social  Market: The Alternative in Japan and Europe
    1. Justice and Prosperity: Western European Social Democracy [Week 9]
      • Kuttner, The Economic Illusion, Chapters 1,4,5,6
    2. Community and Prosperity: Japanese Confucian Capitalism [Week 10]
      • Vogel, Japan as Number One, Chaps. 4,5,6,7,8
  5. Positive Populism: Toward An American Social Economy
    1. A.Toward A New US Economic Model: The Stakeholder Society and The New Populism [Week11]
      • Derber, The Incorporation of America, Chapters 9-13 (packet)
    2. Worker Participation and Employee Ownership as a Stakeholder Strategy [Week 12]
      • Bluestone and Bluestone, Negotiating the Future, Chaps. 1, 5-10
      • Blasi, The New Owners, Chap. 1; Chap. 4 optional (On Reserve)
    3. Corporate Social Responsibility as a Business Strategy [Week 13]
      • Makower,  Beyond the Bottom Line , Chaps 1,4,5,8,9
      • Derber, The Incorporation of America, Chapter 12 (packet)
    4. Populist Politics for 2000 and Beyond: The New Labor Movement and Public Control of the Corporation [Week 14]
      • Aronowitz, Up From the Ashes, The New Labor Movement
      • Derber, The Incorporation of America, Chapter 14 (packet)
      • Brecher and Costello, A "New Labor Movement" in the Shell of the Old? (On library reserve; optional)