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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Margaret Levi
POL S 582
Seattle Campus

Institutional Analysis

Social change and property rights theory. Exploration of long-term secular change through works whose approaches derive from neoclassical economics and analytical Marxism. Evolution and transformation of property rights over land, labor, and capital and the consequences of the property rights structure for political and economic institutions.

Class description

Description: The focus of this seminar is on theories of secular change that emerge from the recent literature on institutions in political economy. There are, in fact, several “new institutionalisms.” The foundation of one lies with the great sociological thinkers, such as Marx and Weber. The basis of the second lies in neo-classical economics and public choice. Initially, the subjects of the more sociological perspective tended to be comparative and historical, and the more economic were contemporary and American. Almost all of these dividing lines have begun to shift in recent years. There continues to be debate over method and theory, but nearly all of the important analysts believe their approaches illuminate a wide range of problems across country and time. The focus in this seminar will be on the new economic institutionalism, with reference to the alternatives.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Seminars seem to mean different things to different students and different faculty. What I hope we achieve together is a common understanding of the literature as a basis for the development of each student’s own position. I also hope we have lively discussions directed at untangling the analytical complexities of the “new” institutionalism.

Recommended preparation

Texts: The following books are required and available for purchase at the UW Bookstore: Elinor Ostrom, Understanding Institutional Diversity; Margaret Levi, Of Rule and Revenue; Avner Greif. Institutions and the Path to the Modern Economy: Lessons from Medieval Trade; Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy; Kathleen Thelen, How Institutions Evolve; Torben Iversen, Contested Economic Institutions; Jason Wittenberg, Crucibles of Political Loyalty; Robert H. Bates, Avner Greif, Margaret Levi, Jean-Laurent Rosenthal, and Barry Weingast, Analytic Narratives. (selections)

Class assignments and grading

Assignments: 20-25 page paper

Grading: Papers: 60 % Class/quiz participation: 40 %.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information
Last Update by Suman C. Chhabra
Date: 08/14/2007