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August 23, 2007


john doylemason

This class was definietly a challenge in its own right at times. The more upbeat tempo as compared to PEIS 100 was a godsend, but at times the lectures seemed to drag or become misconstrued as to the overrall goal of the theorist of the week. Slides are always appreciated in any class in that it keeps both the lecturer and the student on the same page. Not that the lecture was boring, i loved it, but i did get lost at times, and slides would definietly help.

Additionally, maintaining slides of the website would improve study habits and review habits for the class, ultimately allowing a greater understanding of the material at large.

The website was confusing at times and sadly only until the 5th week of classes did i finally come to grips with it. The links from page to page were jumbled and while the page is basic, it is cluttered in its own right.

A solution to this would simply be to removed some of the excess or unnescesary items from the sides, make a clear page for each GSI, and have links that readily engaged the student, rather than jump them around to another set of links.

I am glad no group work was assigned. Group work seems very trivial to me and a lack of trust in any other besides myself along with a busy schedule can lead to clear problems as it has in other classes.

The web assignments worked well in my opinion. Perhaps extending the point system from 0-3 to 0-10? This would allow a student to more easily grasp how he/she is doing in the class.

The papers covered brilliant topics and were chosen wisely in my opinion. I enjoyed researching my concentration.

Perhaps a larger number of smaller papers rather than a few moderate sized ones would increase the understanding. For example, a paper covering the topic, "Stiglitz working for Sony" and you analyze the impact, or "Hobson working for Shell Oil," also analyzing what he/she would approve of, disapprove of etc. These papers would be 1-2 pages each, about 400-500 words. Relatively painless, but fulfilling two aspects. 1) Associating a past thinker to a modern issue, 2) easier to study than rereading texts and arguments on blogs that do not fully encorperate the ideas of the theorist.

Yelena Bakman

Let me first start by saying that my background does not come from PEIS or politics: it comes strongly from Economics. When I signed up for the course back in Spring 07, I expected to fulfill my Philosophy and Value requirement while still having an aspect of economics inside it. To that expectation, I got what I was looking for even though it was more weighted to the social and political theories rather than the economic ones. As one coming from no PEIS background, I found the papers interesting and had no problem that there was an option for people who could write on their concentrations or a previous class. On a side note, I think that a final for class like this would best be served as either open book or a take home paper or something of the sort. This way the professor would receive the most us the students have to offer.

I believe that the quantity of reading that was given each week, especially in the beginning, decreased the amount of reading that was actually done because scanning a book is not nearly the same a READING a part of it. Even if we lose some of the big picture that one would get from reading the book in its entirety, I believe that fully reading a part is more worthwhile than scanning the whole, which we were forced to do by time constraint.

As for the write ups, I would propose them to be due not on Thursday but on Friday, thus giving us time to simmer in the lectures at least for a night. As many previously have mentioned, and I would like to re-iterate, feedback on write-ups would be nice, even if it as simple as having them graded in a timely manner (sorry GSI’s). That way we could adjust or ask either the professor on how to improve or the GSI’s on how to improve.

Lastly, as many again have said, lectures needed some more focus. Looking back at my notes, I’m going to have to figure out where one category began and another ended since the tangents (don’t get me wrong, I loved the tangents and they added to the context of what was going on and when as well make Prof. DeLong seem more human when he talked about his family and past as a professor and student) in between throw off the organization. If there were brief outlines of the lecture posted either online, or in class, that would be amazing since then we would know the key ideas and concepts that we need to focus in on.

Thank you very much for a great semester and exposing me to many theories and thinkers that I otherwise would never have read about or considered

Megan Roberto

PEIS 101 has been an interesting course this past semester. I enjoyed the readings much more than the reading from PEIS 100. I believe they do an excellent job in covering the political economy discourse for the modern period. In turning to the improvements that can be made for the course I believe like my fellow classmates that lectures need to be framed. It just helps to piece together the themes and larger ideas. Also, I would recommend that all web posts be separated, just so you can reasonably expand on the previous posters. Last but not least, I want to thank the GSI's (Kristen) for being extremely helpful in facilitating conversations, and highlighting concepts.

Serena Yang

I agree with the comments regarding more and better feedback. Not only with the web assignments, but I felt that there was a lot of confusion about the papers and grading in general. Especially going into the final, I feel like everything is really up in the air.

As to the web assignments, maybe instead of assigning the whole class one question and then dividing it up by sections, we could have multiple questions that address multiple readings (maybe on a comparative level?), from which we can choose which one to answer. While it’s not a perfect solution, I think it would integrate the other readings into the course and encourage more discussion about them.

As a theory class, I thought there were some readings that were too specific to the overall theme of course, like Orwell’s “The Road to Wigan Pier” and Djilas’ “The New Class” because even though both books were relevant to the course, I felt that their arguments were kind of repetitive and didn’t really advance my understanding of political economy. Perhaps next time excerpts of the books could be assigned rather than the whole thing? That said, even though I agree with all of Andrew’s four other points, I think his argument for problem sets would be contradictory to the theoretical structure of this course.

Thematically, there were some schools of thought I wish we could have touched on that we didn’t. Even though we talked about development in the post-WWII world, particularly in East Asia versus Latin America, I think it would have also been pertinent to discuss development in the context of decolonization. In this way, we could have also worked in Africa to this course, which was something I felt this class really lacked, especially as towards the end of the semester, the course began to emphasize the theme of globalization with Reich and Stern, etc.

David Grande

Going into this class I had great optimism thinking I would learn more about contemporary political thinkers. The class structure was definitely a shock, as I would have never thought newly used web assignments would be 45% of our grade! Furthermore, the lecture sometimes didn't seem like it tied with the overall class and readings.

To express my improvements, I think they should be in three key areas: web assignments shouldn't be worth as much as it was in this course. Having weekly assignments eventually take its toll, as the reading requires a lot of time. Second, the overall lecture structure should be focused on reinforcing those ideas brought up in readings and should be the anchor for ideas that could be discussed in section. Third, feedback should be utilized more. There was minor feedback given to us for our web assignments and ways it can be improved.

Overall, I think as a class we should be given a break when it comes to grading this semester due to the circumstances we had to deal with. We were "guinea pigs" and we shouldn't be graded harsh or have a high curve just because of that. Thanks once again for everything.

Aditya Gandranata

First of all, I just want to say that it has been an interesting class and I have gained a lot of new information and knowledge regarding political economy from this class. There is always, however, a room for improvement and first, I suggest that there should be some kind of course reader, which the contents comprise of parts of the reading that is relevant to the point or topic in the course (instead of assigning a lot of books and reading from the websites). It is good to have 3 or 4 full books to read (no more than 5) but in addition to that I think course reader would be a good idea (even though I understand that a few weeks before the class started there was no Professors or GSIs assigned for this class). Secondly, I also suggest that there is clearer information regarding the curve in class (there was no specific information about this as I recalled). Lastly, just like everyone else, I suggest that there is an outline provided before every lecture online (or maybe even a power point) regarding the content of the lecture because sometimes it also got me confuse on what I should write or not. It has been a great class and I would like to thank Professor Delong and all of the GSIs (Kristen in particular) for all your help.

Jessica Chu

I can, with all honesty say, that I truly enjoyed this class. However, I think it might have had more to do with the readings that we studied and the novelty of taking my first political economy class, more than it had to do with how individual teachers tend to spin it. I thought the reading list was very interesting, but a bit too long. I took a history class and an English class this semester, and it felt like I was neglecting those classes to try and get a decent grade in this one. Also, it felt like I wasn’t thorough enough in my readings because there was so much to get through. As for the lectures, I really enjoyed them. But I think that’s because I’m a history person. Admittedly, it had little to do with the reading for the first couple weeks, but knowing the history during which writers wrote is incredibly important to understanding why they wrote what they did. Lectures were interesting, and while I might have had to do extra analysis of the books on my own, I would much prefer an interesting lecture about history, than a boring lecture about the subtly of Milton Friedman’s writing. As a side note, the GSIs were fantastic considering they took on a course last minute, and kind of had to wing it in the beginning. Section was also a great time to clear up any misunderstandings about the reading that wasn’t covered in lecture.

To sum it up, less reading and lectures that pertain more to the reading material would be optimal.

Susanna Babos

PEIS 101 has been an interesting class overall even though that the semester started quite chaotic since we did not have a GSI for the first couple of weeks.It was good to see that the both the lectures and the discussions improved during the term.
I think that the issue of readings assigned should be revisited:the readings were way too much,and I do not think that it was possible to keep up with all of them.Also,because the readings were plenty,the key points got lost sometimes,so I think that instead of assigning whole books,key chapters should be assigned.
About lecture:lectures imporved tremendously during the term.They started to be connected to the readings more and more,however,this could be imporved too because claims were left hanging often.
And the last thing,I think many of my fellow students said this,assigments were not too clear,we had different syllabies online,the posting were all over the place and it is the last week of the semester,and I still did not get half of my homework grades back...

Miranda Huey

Like most people, I liked the reading choices, but I would have liked it if there were a lot less reading so that there could be a deeper analysis on specific arguments, both in section and on the reading responses. It seemed that it was difficult to carry on a coherent argument for the reading responses when people were talking about different parts of the book or merely generalizing about the theme as a whole. I liked the idea of the reading responses, but, as many above have said, the grading system for them was a little odd. And, although I enjoyed the lectures, sometimes they didn't feel as pertinent and were quite tangential. I agree that having the papers be about PEIS as a whole rather than about the specific theories of the class was a little weird. Of course, I agree with most that the GSI's (mine was Kristen) were extremely skilled at weaving everything together and making books much more clear.

Anthony Yates

Beyond week one, I will not complain about the reading load. The dynamic duo of Hobson & Schumpeter was devastating, but after this, the course reading was not unmanageable by any means.

I do believe it needs to be adjusted though. Some authors are clearly more difficult to read than others (Polanyi, Schumpeter) and merit a greater block than one week. Polanyi over two weeks would be would really help to build a firm understanding of some of the subtleties of his text. In weeks like this, the addition of secondary articles complicates and detracts rather than supplements and aids.

I really, really enjoyed the lectures...especially the tangents. They were fresh and interesting, and while at times they may have slipped from an illustration of the greater point (no subway to the outer campus of Rome...huh?), some are very intriguing (the government's Mickey Mouse-esque hands) to the extent that, in listening to the lectures a second time via mp3 (Brilliant touch, by the way. Truly helpful; all teachers take heed!) they remain informative without being dry and dull.

There are certainly things that need work. It would be nice if grading were more prompt, and if we could have reflected on comments (nonexistent) on the first paper before we wrote the second.

I am strongly against the idea of pushing back the web assignments. I think it encourages a far more thought provoking reading of the text when one is forced to develop his own ideas without a basic summary from DeLong. Lecturing first would promote rehash at the expense of independent thought. While it made us look like idiots at times (myself included), the potential for this pseudo-humiliation certainly was part of my incentive to not blow off a reading during a particularly busy week.

Kudos to DeLong for not spoon-feeding us the necessary information, and truly making us work to understand what clearly are some important theories. I am not a PEIS major, but I would recommend HIS class to anyone as, at the very least, an exercise in critical thinking.

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