GBST 218
Capital and Coercion Spring 2023
Division II Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
Cross-listed ECON 218
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Class Details

Capital, tradable ownership shares in long-lived corporations, invented in the 17th century, has connected people of different races, religions, and geographies. There are huge profits from such economic interactions, but also risks: of being cheated, deceived, or coerced. This course uses insights from the economics of incentives (principal-agent models, contracts, mechanism design) to investigate the interplay between capital, coercion, and resistance. The role of prejudice will be central, as will the rise of middlemen as enforcers of coercion. Case studies span the 17th century to the 20th and include: the spice trade and conflict in the Indian Ocean, capital markets and fraud in Amsterdam and London, the Atlantic trade in enslaved people, the Dutch “cultivation system” in Java, the slow end of slavery in Brazil, and colonial control and independence in Kenya. Required readings for this class will be fifty or more pages per week, and will include historical case studies and excerpts from novels and diaries.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 19
Expected: 19
Class#: 3660
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Students will be evaluated based on class participation and on four essays.
Prerequisites: Econ 110
Enrollment Preferences: If overenrolled, students will be asked to submit a short statement of interest.
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
ECON 218 Division II GBST 218 Division II
WS Notes: Students will receive guidelines on writing drafts and self-editing for clarity and structure. There will be four 5-7 page writing assignments for the class, spaced throughout the semester, with instructor feedback and an opportunity to revise one for final submission. We will also carefully analyze several beautifully written non-fiction articles that explore topics related to this class written for a general audience.
DPE Notes: This course analyzes the evolution of economic inequity. It analyzes how global market opportunities have been shaped by race, religion, wealth, and power.
Attributes: POEC International Political Economy Courses

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