Political Science | Politics of Economic Crisis
Y490 | 10972 | Hellwig

The current economic crisis arguably ranks as the defining
characteristic of our day. Not since the Great Depression of the 1930s
has the economies of Europe and North America experience such malaise.
The crisis is notable for several reasons beyond its immediate impact
on economic well-being.  Unlike the crises which upset economies in
Latin America and Asia at the end of the 20th century, the current
crisis of financial markets began the rich democracies of the global
North. And as the reaction to a common force originating in tightly
integrated credit markets, the crisis provides an unprecedented
opportunity to observe and evaluate different country strategies for
overcoming its effects. These two aspects of economic crises—a)
variation in incurrence of the “adjustment” burden and b) variation in
political and policy responses—will be the focus of this course.  The
course will be divided in three main parts. Part 1 will examine the
origins of economic crises in historical perspective.  Why do economic
downturns plunge to crisis levels on some occasions but not others?
Can we learn from history or is it the case that every time things
“are different”? Part 2 builds on this historical experience to study
the current crisis which began in 2008.  And party 3 will explicitly
compare policy responses.  Do different countries respond to common
crises in similar manner or differently? What explanations—cultural,
economic, political, historical, etc.—account for this?  And, lastly,
how do voters and politicians respond to such economic downturns?
Requirements for this senior seminar in political science include
drafting a series of papers (culminating in a term paper), a mid-term
examination, participation in in-class debates, and active involvement
in class discussions.