American Economic Crisis and Social Changes:

Corporate Power vs. People Power

Course Description

The relation between corporations, American democracy and the American Dream is fraying. Downsizing, re-engineering and global outsourcing signal just some of the radical changes. This course analyzes the corporation as it affects the economic health of the the world, the nation and the health of American communities. It also proposes changes in the corporate system—both at the national and global levels—that can heal American social problems while increasing the health of American business.

The vast power of rising global corporate empires - from Citigroup to Exxon/Mobil to Microsoft - poses new threats to American democracy and the wellbeing of all citizens. While American corporations are trumpeted as a model of efficiency for the whole world, their vast size, singleminded profit seeking, and lack of public acountability create problems of corporate sovereignty similar to those a hundred years ago during the age of the Robber Barons. While the economy as a whole grows rapidly and dramatic technological change revolutionizes our lives, the poor multiply, wages stagnate, corporate profit and power grow, and job security is vanishing. Big business increasingly sets the agenda for both political parties. We worship money as our highest value.

This course offers new solutions for these problems, offering a vision of how to maintain prosperity while bringing corporations under democratic control. It shows that we need new labor and community movements with a populist vision, a new legal framework of democratic corporate governance for the world as a whole, and new communitarian values and social agreements.

The course offers students literacy in political economy, the theory of the corporation, the practice of business, and the making of social change. It provides a new perspective on current affairs and American society, and should help students interpret the news about the economy and American social problems in a more critical and informed way. It does not require prior background in political economy or economics, and uses texts that are written for the general reader.

Requirements and Basis For Grading:

  • Midterm
  • Final
  • Group Reports


(In bookstore and on library reserve)

  • *Brecher and Costello, Global Village or Global Pillage
  • Collins and Yeskel, Economic Apartheid in America
  • *Derber, Corporation Nation
  • *Derber, The Wilding of America
  • *Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree
  • Makower, Beyond the Bottom Line
  • Vogel, Japan as Number One
  • Thurow, Head to Head
  • Wallach and Sforza, The WTO
  • Brecher and Costello, Globalization From Below

*Recommended for Purchase

Course Readings

  1. Who Runs the World? Corporate Sovereignty and The New Global Economy
    1. Global Corporations and the Future of Democracy [Week 1]
      • Thurow, Head to Head, Chapters 2,5 (optional)
    2. Globalization:Race to the Top or Race to the Bottom? [Week 2]
      • Brecher and Costello, Global Village or Global Pillage? Chaps 1-3
      • Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Chaps. 1,6,7,9
    3. Working the Globe: The Rise of the Multinational Corporations and Global Government [Week 3]
      • Derber, Corporation Nation, Chap. 14
      • Wallach and Sforza, The WTO, pp.13-60   
      • A Citizen’s Guide to the WTO
  2. The American Dream at Risk: Corporate Rule and The Threat to Democracy
    1. New Robber Barons?: Corporate Sovereignty [Week 4]
      • Derber, Corporation Nation. Intro, Chaps 1-4
    2. The Corporate Mystique [Week 5]
      • Derber, Corporation Nation, Chaps. 6-9
    3. Inequality and Poverty: Corporate Rule, the New Social Contract and the End of the American Dream [Week 6]
      • Collins and Yeskel, Economic Apartheid in America, Chapters 1-3
    4. Social Disintegration: The Ungluing of America [Week 7]
      • Derber, The Wilding of America. Chaps. 1,2,4  
  3. Justice and Community as Economic Strategies: Toward A Social (Moral) Market
    1. Justice and Prosperity: The Western European Strategy [Week 8]
      • Kuttner, The Economic Illusion, Chapters 4,6
    2. Community and Prosperity: The Japanese Corporate Strategy [Week 9]
      • Vogel, Japan as Number One, Chaps. 4,5,6,7,8 (optional)
      • Thurow, Head to Head, Chaps. 2, 4
  4. Positive Populism: Toward Economic Democracy
    1. Toward A New US Economic Model: Postive Populism and
      The Accountable Corporation [Week 10]
      • Derber, Corporation Nation, Chapters 9-11; 13,14
    2. Can Corporations Be Responsible? [Week 11]
      • Makower,  Beyond the Bottom Line , Chaps 1, 8
      • Derber, Corporation Nation, Chapter 12
    3. Populist Politics for 2000 and Beyond: The US [Week 12]
      • Derber, Corporation Nation, Chapter 15
      • Collins and Yeskel, Economic Apartheid, Chaps. 4,5
    4. Populist Politics for 2000 and Beyond: The World [Week 13]
      • Brecher and Costello, Globalization From Below