ASTK15659U SUMMER16: Economic Crisis: A Brief history of time

Volume 2015/2016


Bachelorlevel: 10 ECTS

Masterlevel: 7,5 ECTS


As the aftermath of the global financial crisis rumbles on, the attention of politicians has been focussed squarely on narrow issues of economic policy, and on trying to reconstruct routes to economic growth in the wake of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Whilst this latter crisis is often invoked as a direct comparator, few commentators connect the dots in more meaningful ways between the current crisis and its historical and societal precursors. This summer school will therefore encourage students to reflect more deeply on the different dimensions of the current crisis, first providing rigorous introductory teaching to the overlapping issues encapsulated in the current crisis (within the economy, governance and society) before broadening this temporally and theoretically to invite students to think critically about what crisis means.

The course will take place over a period of two weeks, from  app. 09.30 to 16.00 each day. Of this time, formal classes will take place between 09.30-14.30, with the remaining session allocated for group work, homework preparation, and individual support with the assignments. Week 1 introduces an historical overview of past crises, together with some of the key theoreticians who have analysed and defined those crises. The second week uses a series of themes to encourage students question what we mean by crisis in the global economy, and provoke deeper analysis of the ‘work’ done by the term.

A key driving force behind the programme is the desire to build a curriculum around active learning techniques that require students to participate just as actively as the lecturer. Therefore, the structure of the programme is designed to be fluid and to build in space for students to direct their own learning and draw out themes and topics that they find particularly interesting. Each day will have some kind of applied case study or task that requires students to think on their feet about the subject.

Competency description

This course will give students a firm grasp of the dynamics underpinning contemporary crises across different sectors of political economy. As such, they will be well equipped to critically evaluate claims made about the nature of the contemporary economy, and this knowledge and scepticism will serve students well in a range of endeavours. Within political science, it would serve as an excellent foundation for further study in international political economy (IPE), but also more broadly to engage with many contemporary political issues that are expressed in terms of crisis, such as migration, welfare state policy, or education. As such, this course will also provide a strong introduction for students looking to build careers in international organisations, government, the media, or politics.

Learning Outcome

The course’s objective is to enable the students to:

  • Describe the key attributes of an economic crisis and explain how the phrase has been used in different contexts

  • Compare different periods of crisis over time and identify the features that make them similar or different

  • Critically analyse the theoretical and practical contribution of the key texts discussed during the first week

  • Relate the concept of crisis to different facets of political and social life beyond periods of immediate economic disruption


An extensive list of primary and secondary texts will be available at the start of the course. Two books will be particularly useful to acquire as basic textbooks:

  • Davies, Howard: ‘The Financial Crisis: Who is to Blame?’ (Polity Press, Cambridge, 2010)

  • Broome, André: ‘Issues and Actors in the Global Political Economy’ (Palgrave Macmillan, Hampshire, 2014)

In addition, the first week will comprise reading several ‘classic’ books in advance. Students would be well advised to obtain library copies of these books and familiarise themselves with them before the start of the course. These are:

  • Keynes, the General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (various editions)

  • Galbraith, the Great Crash 1929 (Penguin, London, 2009)

  • Polanyi, the Great Transformation (Beacon Press, Boston 2001, also available online)

  • Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (Chicago Press, Chicago, 2002)

  • Stiglitz, Joseph: ‘Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy’ (Penguin, London, 2010)

  • Gamble, Andrew: ‘the Spectre at the Feast’ (Palgrave MacMillan, Hampshire, 2009)

  • Blyth, Mark: ‘Austerity: History of a Dangerous Idea’ (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2013)

This course will be taught by staff from the political science department, but is open to students from a wide range of subdisciplines. A background in economics, sociology, history, geography or anthropology would all provide valuable insights, and as such a background in political science is not expected. Students should be interested in the current global financial crisis, and have some familiarity with the key events and actors, although a familiarity gained through news broadcasts and secondary reading is more than sufficient.
Sessions will be mixed to maintain engagement, comprising mini-lectures, group work, informal presentations, visits to other institutions, simulations, take home exercises and case studies
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Total
  • 28
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assesment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner