Political Economy at Williams is the study of political and economic forces as they combine to produce public policy. These outputs of the political system are shaped by social forces, nongovernmental organizations, state institutions, markets, knowledge structures, political ideologies, normative goals, and moral values. Policy analysis seeks to both understand and evaluate public policies in their formulation, implementation, and effectiveness. The study of public policy is inherently interdisciplinary, and the Political Economy Program self-consciously incorporates the central analytical approaches of both Political Science and Economics, seeking to surmount the sometimes artificial barriers of specialization that may characterize a single discipline.
The Political Economy major takes students from introductory courses in Economics and Political Science all the way to a senior year group project of independent student research and concrete policy proposals. Three introductory courses and four electives in these two fields complement four courses peculiar to the Political Economy major. Three of these four — POEC 250, POEC 401 and POEC 402 — are taught jointly by a political scientist and an economist, and the major’s culmination is a public presentation of student senior policy projects. As part of these projects, the major includes (within POEC 402) a class trip to Washington, DC during the first Sunday through Wednesday of spring break. All majors are required to participate in this trip. Given the program’s public policy orientation, majors must also have an active learning experience (such as an internship or a public policy-related winter study course) to fulfill an experiential education requirement. More information can be found at the Political Economy Program website.