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August 23, 2007


Brendan Gluck

The themes discussed in PEIS 101 were extremely interesting and I think that the selected readings were great in helping to better understand modern political economic theory. That having been said, it was very hard to keep up with the readings and I think that either providing a reader with certain selections from each of these pieces or decreasing the amount of books and articles selected would have been much better. It is very hard to fully grasp the significance each piece has in political economic theory when we are forced to skim them and I feel that much more analysis could have been drawn upon these works if there was a greater focus placed on a smaller amount works.

Ellen Guan

Like many of my classmates, I had really enjoyed my time in PEIS and has certainly learned a great deal. Reading through the previous posts, I found myself in most agreement with the idea that web assignments should be graded out of 10 (or some similar, wider scale) to help students more accurately grasp how they are doing in the class.

Also, like many posters before me, I believe that the readings were too much and too sparse. A lot of the thinkers that we studied have extremely interesting ideas, but given the amount of time we have and the amount of reading that we are given it is really difficult to grasp the big picture. In that regard, I think Helen has a good suggestion of spending one week on one thinker. Otherwise a lot of the readings that we are assigned are just given to us without much discussion.

Also, given the amount of reading we were assigned, it is fairly impossible to prepare for the final. A lot of the readers that we read earlier in the course can easily be forgotten or confused with other thinkers throughout the course, and there is really no way of preparing for the final given that there are so many books to prepare for.

Other than that, I really enjoyed the web assignments. Not only are they helpful with understanding the reading, they are also a helpful way for us to organize our own thoughts about a thinker.

Lastly, I would like to echo a previous post about the quality of GSIs. I also believe that our GSIs were superb in quality and really really helped with understanding the flow of the course and the materials.

Joyce Yawa Amoah

PEIS 101 turned out to be one of the best classes I have had In Berkeley. This class restored my faith in the major. Professor DeLong did a great job. He made the lectures very interesting by relating the readings to actual events. By so doing he gave faces to the authors a moved them out of the abstract realm. I liked that very much. It also made it easy to remember the readings and the concepts being propounded by the various theorists. I was a bit worried when I initially signed up for this class because of my past experiences with PEIS classes. I must say 101 was pretty interesting for a theory class.

However, the reading list was a little too long. But again it depends on how the final exam is structured. I learned a lot from this class and I now know what the PEIS major entails. My PEIS 45 was too Eurocentric and imperialistic in every aspect from the lectures to the selected readings. 101 on the other hand presented very balanced set of readings that build on each other. A found the readings to be building blocks.

I disagree with anyone who claims that the readings were random and unrelated. I liked the web assignments, they were a bit challenging in terms of time but it was a good exercise. I am glad no group work was assigned. Coordinating group works is almost impossible. People are too busy doing what they think really matters to them. I enjoyed the class! My knowledge bank got richer.
Thank you Professor DeLong! P.S. save Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier and Djilas’ The New Class.
Happy holidays to everyone.

Zaheer Cassim

The class was too dark and too cold.

I learned a couple of new things, but I will probably forget everything after the final because nothing was really reinforced, unless I wrote an author in one of my papers.

I hated the reading assignements, because most people just copied the first couple of responses and articulated it in a different way. Hence, I had to say some really bold stuff, just to be different, which cost me on my grades.

Section were interesting, as long as most people read the actual material or could remember it.

De Long, your tangents are fantastic, they make life a littl bit more interesting. The fact that it takes away from the lecture makes no difference to me, since you basically gave us whats going to be on the final.

However, I am not going to miss this class.

Dave Koken

I would summarize my suggestions for this class and for professor Delong in two words: BE EXPLICIT.

From my experiences, and from reading the posts of my fellow students, the common problem I see over and over again is a general feeling of being lost. Almost everyone appreciated the material that was presented (myself included), but the organization of the course made it very difficult to absorb and synthesize the large amounts of complex information that we were responsible for.

I think there are a lot of different ways to organize this course effectively and present material, however, the success of any of the styles is completely contingent on the students’ understanding of the process and direction of the course. The style Delong tried -- presenting mostly historical background in lecture and allowing students, through independent reading and section, to determine how the reading fits in -- COULD WORK. So too could the style students at Berkeley have become more accustomed to – focusing on discussing and summarizing readings in lecture and using sections for follow up discussion.

But, for me, this course became very difficult not because of its style, but because it lacked clear direction and purpose. The introduction to the course lacked a clear explanation as to the learning process that we would be undertaking. The lecture often lacked greater organizing themes and connection to reading. Our assignments often lacked useful feedback. Directions for turning in/completing assignments often lacked consistency. I realize that we were supposed to be “guinea pigs” in this course and perhaps the lack of clarity was a result of the dynamic, experimental nature of the course, but the lack of direction which I have described made this course a frustrating and agonizing experience. I felt as though I was endlessly trying to catch up to or figure out changing expectations and structure, and, as a result, feel that I sacrificed much in the way of understanding. It is only in these last few weeks and the reflective nature of the past few sections and lectures that I have really gotten a feel for the greater purpose of this course and how to connect the ideas presented in it; this is much too late.

Regardless of the form this class eventually takes, my suggestion would be to make the goals of that course as clear as possible and to reiterate them often. Being explicit about goals does not mean imposing beliefs, it means gives students a better idea about how to develop their own.

Good luck with developing this class in the future. The material is very interesting and I think the class has huge potential to be useful for PEIS and non-PEIS students alike. Thanks professor Delong and my GSI, Ben, for taking on the challenge of teaching this course on such short notice.

Beth Dukes

On the whole, I found this course to be very interesting and I feel like I will come away from it with a solid foundation in modern theories of political economy, which in my opinion is what the course is designed to do. My favorite thing about the course was the broad spectrum of ways in which each selected thinker approached the discipline and approached their specific questions of political economy. From the pragmatists, like Keynes, to the moral philosophers, like Friedman, to the people who spoke from personal experience, like Djilas, each economist/philosopher/theorist presented a unique and interesting approach which challenged the other's and forced us to think about the discipline of political economy more broadly. I would also like to say that I got a lot out of the first essay and found it to be very useful in thinking about the particular piece of political economy that I wrote about.

That being said, I like most of the students, felt the course to be a bit too broad at times. Pieces like Anderson's "Imagined Communities", though clearly related to political economy, seem to fit better into Political Science courses. Furthermore, Fukuyama's piece, a narrow prediction of the course of the sentiments about political economy, tell more about International Relations at the close of the Cold War than they do about the discipline itself.

As far as the blogs go, I think that the idea was great, but they didn't always go as planned. It seemed to me that in rushing to finish them, people weren't thoughtful enough in their responses to make for great debates. Perhaps giving pre-assignments to monitor that people have done the reading/understand the arguments before they post and debate might be a better solution? On the whole I was happy to have them as a way to make sure I was thinking about the right kinds of questions when reading.

I also appreciated the comments about historical context in lecture, and realized how these related to theorists' methods when writing my essay.

All in all, I think this class could turn into something great with some adjustments. If I were to teach the course, I would weed through the readings a bit, clean up the structure, and devise a way for the blogs to represent more thoughtful work. (All easier said than done). Then, I think this course could be worthwhile for everyone!

Jazmin Segura

There really isn't much to say at this point because my classmates have made excellent suggestions. Therefore, I would like to re-iterate the issues I found to be most intriguing. Everyone else has mentioned that the reading list was too long at the beginning of the course, I agree with that; however I feel as though reading 5 articles was less efficient as to reading an entire book. I guess what I am saying is that I would have preferred to read the Stiglitz book rather than the articles.
Given that Professor DeLong had a couple of weeks to prepare for this class i feel he did a good job but I hope that next semester he revises the reading list because he even said that he had prepare for an 18 week course as opposed to a 15week course. therefore, he decided to cram one week with topics that were not very related to each other.
Moreover, I would like to express that I was somewhat disappointed because Latin America was not very much included in the course/readings. I am not suggesting that the course should be all focused on Brazil but I would have like to cover the Development theory and Dependency theory. Perhaps in this context then Latin America as well as other developing nations could have been included in the course.
Everything else: feedback, assignments due thursday, class outline, etc...would greatly improve the course next semester.

Jennifer Miller

As a sociology major, I took this class because I am interested in what political economy offers, the intersections of sociology, politics and economics-which has been divided in academia. I felt, as a non-economics major a bit nervous at the onset of the class (as someone else mentioned previously), but I was happily surprised to find the material accessible, as well as thought provoking, historically interesting and relevant.I think it is immensely important that non-PEIS majors can take this class, and that 100 is not a requirement, even though this might be frustrating for the teacher. The authors chosen for this course, and the general overarching outline was wonderful. Yet, I agree with others that themes and outlines for lectures and readings would have helped a lot. I also think a mix of classical liberal, neo-liberal, and anthropological views were great, but the comparison of “logics” could be expanded towards the end of the course to include a more diverse vision and reaction to capitalism, imperialism, wars, and state and market forces from third world authors, not just academics from the North Atlantic who study them. Djilas was a great example of an insider’s reaction.
I loved the web assignments because reading my classmates opinions and ideas was very informative and interesting. The format of the website was confusing though, and I was often lost. I think bspace could be used for announcements, assignments and notes because it is very easy to find and organize information on this site. Lastly, I want to thank DeLong and all staff for a rigorous and fascinating class. I particularly want to thank Varanya for working very hard, condensing tons of information for us, and challenging us to think harder.

Michael Pimentel

Within certain bounds, I felt that that class offered a favorable experience.
The readings were, for the most part, pertinent/well-selected and the sheer breadth of knowledge exhibited by Professor Delong was, to say the least, impressive. With that said, there were a handful of obvious flaws, the root of which was the structure of the class's lectures. While I understand completely the purpose of presenting historical context, I felt that the lectures were often mired by digressions. Beyond this, I believe that there should have been a more obvious effort to connect the lectures with our readings in the online forum; waiting to quiz us on the connections at the very end is simply inadequate. I would also have liked to see more emphasis placed on essay topics that called into question our understanding of the material we covered.

In regard to the sections, I felt mine was carried in a decent manner (I had Varanya). I would have liked to see more debate, but I realize that that depends on the students, not on the section leader. My only major complaint is the lack of true feedback for our responses.

For next semester, I feel that if the lectures were more fine-tuned (more apparent themes), and the assignments were used to better stress our understanding of the readings, the class would provided a more interesting experience. Also, as Vera pointed out, perhaps the department should consider making two discussion sections a week as opposed to one. I know that in my section, we would, at times, push back discussing a work because of time constraints.

Granted this was the first time Professor Delong taught this class, I think he did a fine job. Do I have some complaints? Sure...but nothing is perfect the first time around; he deserves to be cut some slack. The readings were hefty, I agree. However, they became less daunting when I better managed my time.

Jelena Djukic

First, I think this class could be even better if (as several of my classmates already pointed out) professor briefly went over the issues/themes that would be covered in class before starting the lecture. By doing so, it would be easier to follow the lecture and direction professor’s argument. Secondly, I think that having homework assignments be worth 45% of the final grade is a lot. Especially, taking into consideration that midterms/papers are worth only 15%. Therefore, I believe it would be good to give more weight to papers/midterms and less to homework assignments. Thirdly, workload in this class was a challenge. Even though most of the readings were extremely helpful and overall great it would have been more beneficial if the workload was reduced. By doing so, we could spent more time understanding and discussing particular issues rather than “running” over them.
Overall, I enjoyed this course. First, I appreciated Professor De Long’s neutral stance on some extremely controversial and difficult issues. For example, issues in the Balkans. Being from this part of Europe, I had some previous knowledge and experience. I appreciated that Professor De Long stayed neutral and examined both sides of the issue rather than strictly sticking to one. He did so on many other occasions when he talked about contemporary issues concerning PEIS 101. Secondly, materials assigned for this class (even though overwhelmingly many) were great. I found them extremely interesting and helpful in extending my knowledge or understanding some fundamental issues such as Middle Eastern tensions. Thirdly, my GSI made up greatly for lack organization or clarity that my classmates and I faced on several occasions in this class. He made our discussion more interesting by relating issues we talked about in lecture to everyday life as well as by being creative in leading the class discussion.

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