57.545 The Political Economy of Employment

The Political Economy of Employment

Course Details
Min Credits 3
Max Credits 3
Course ID 35782
Status Active

This course provides an analysis of the ways in which employment opportunities are created, sustained, and destroyed in a modern capitalist economy such as the United States. We begin by taking a close look at the current state of employment in the US economy. Then we delve into the US historical experience over the past century, focusing along the way on the Great Depression of the 1930s, the post-World War II expansion, the stagflation of the 1970s, and the profound transformation in the conditions of employment over the last two decades of the 20th century which have made jobs of even the best educated members of the labor force much less secure than previously. With this historical perspective as a foundation, we consider alternative theories of why and how the economic system creates, sustains and destroys jobs. We then ask in what ways these processes operate in the business sector, where companies need to generate profits to survive, and the government sector, which has as its foundation the taxation of the population. This understanding of the dynamics of employment in the United States provides an essential basis for explaining two key intertwined features of the US political economy over the past three decades: an increasingly unequal distribution of income and the polarization of income from employment with the disappearance of "middle class" jobs. Contributing to these outcomes, especially in the 2000s, has been the globalization of the labor force, including the "offshoring" of jobs by US companies to lower wage areas of the world. The course explores differential access to employment opportunities by race, ethnicity, and gender. The remainder of the course examines the ideologies and social movements that underpin business and government employment policy, culminating in an evaluation of the effectiveness of the current government's attempt to stimulate job creation and avert a deepening economic crisis.