Two Syllabuses

by Kieran Healy on January 11, 2011

In Spring a young man’s fancy turns to love. Rapidly aging academics such as myself, however, have to decide which readings to assign. This semester I’m teaching Organizations and Management to students in Duke’s MMS certificate program and Markets and Moral Order to a small group of seniors at the Kenan Institute for Ethics. Both classes were a lot of fun last year (perhaps not for the students). I’ve rearranged the running order in the Orgs course a bit, as the flow was wrong last time.

If you think there’s something that absolutely has to be included in either course, I’m open to suggestions. But you’re not allowed to suggest something without also saying what I should drop in order to include it. Unlike the economy, a syllabus is not the sort of thing that you want to grow aggressively in order that everyone gets more and bigger slices of the whole.



AcademicTrad 01.11.11 at 9:28 pm

I am an academic traditionalist, granted, but I would say *a lot more* reading, or you’re really short-changing your students. Way too much time for student presentations. Deeply inappropriate for undergrads. Looks like shirking if I’m the Provost. . . . (and, I was a Provost in my younger days)


Chris Bertram 01.11.11 at 10:14 pm

The organizations and management course takes me back to when I taught evening classes in public adminstration at Central London Poly (a task for which I wasn’t remotely qualified). There’s even some overlap in the reading. Something about groupthink might be good. Maybe

Kenneth Boulding, The Economics of Knowledge and the Knowledge of Economics, American Economic Review (Richard T. Ely Lecture) Volume 56, Issue 1/2 Mar. 1966, 1-13

(I may have been pointed towards this by dsquared …)


Maxine Udall 01.11.11 at 11:21 pm

Amartya Sen’s Rational Fools: A Critique of the Behavioural Foundations of Economic Theory

Not sure what you should drop. Sorry. It all looks good.


Martin G. 01.11.11 at 11:26 pm



Kieran 01.11.11 at 11:40 pm




Kieran Healy 01.11.11 at 11:48 pm

I am an academic traditionalist, granted, but I would say a lot more reading, or you’re really short-changing your students. Way too much time for student presentations. Deeply inappropriate for undergrads. Looks like shirking if I’m the Provost. . . . (and, I was a Provost in my younger days)

Well, I hope they fired you. In any event, it’s not that sort of course. It’s a small senior seminar, the goal of which is to learn how to write a good, substantial paper. The reading is front-loaded and then they choose a topic and spend the second half working hard on a paper, with relevant reading/research, etc, added as we go and as they iterate through drafts. The many virtues of Academic Traditionalism notwithstanding, the skills needed for this are not learned on the school playground.


Dan Simon 01.12.11 at 12:02 am

That’s really nice that you’re teaching “a small group of seniors”. Is it some kind of joint program with a local home for the aged?


AcademicTrad 01.12.11 at 12:49 am

Wow, firing me because I’m in favour of more rigourous teaching and reading the best there is, as opposed to too-soon of a focus on student’s own thoughts, is a bit punitive, no? At any rate, my point is that undergrad is a time to read the great stuff, not to try to produce one’s own work.


Kieran Healy 01.12.11 at 1:06 am

Well, maybe firing would be harsh. But I reject the idea that you’re on the side of rigorous teaching while I am not. The students are smart and able for the work, and once they start into their papers they end up reading a lot more intensively than they might otherwise. There are seven students in the class — it’d be a different story if I was teaching a larger group, or a bunch of freshers, or what have you.


AcademicTrad 01.12.11 at 2:06 am

OK; I buy you can do that with 7 students! Sorry, I couldn’t tell that from the syllabus.


Substance McGravitas 01.12.11 at 2:24 am

I will not entertain lame excuses asserting that your computer is a mysterious, magical object whose capricious behavior is beyond your meager understanding.

How are your bosses at that stuff?


Kieran Healy 01.12.11 at 2:37 am

Is it some kind of joint program with a local home for the aged?

Are you advocating recreational use of illegal drugs?


y81 01.12.11 at 2:45 am

I would go with syllabuses: it isn’t really a Latin word so it might as well have an English plural. But here, unlike the cases of “prospectus” and “octopus,” reasonable minds could differ.

Relatedly, there ought to be a “lightly” in the first sentence of this post.


geo 01.12.11 at 4:01 am

For “Markets and Moral Order,” how about something on intellectual property by Lewis Hyde, Lawrence Lessing, or James Boyle? Not sure what to drop. The selections I know something about are all good. Maybe one of the others? :-)


Salient 01.12.11 at 4:32 am

Are you advocating recreational use of illegal drugs?

Of course he’s not. Drugs only need to be created once.


Ciarán 01.12.11 at 10:34 am

I’ve just finished a similarly structured course (with 20 students). It was a larger group and so less discursive in class, but my message was: do these readings and then come to me to talk about your paper (including what else you could look at). Of course a senior undergrad ought to be encouraged to think about their own writing: it’s one skill we like them to get the degree for.

I wonder if some portion of the last third of Scott’s The Moral Economy of the Peasant, on the transition to market-based economic relations, would be appropriate. Scott has a nice remark somewhere in there on how, whereas pre-capitalist societies are legitimated on a foundation of fixed social relations, capitalism is legitimated on equal opportunities to enter different social roles. And then there’s all the interesting stuff on how the seeming neutrality of markets actually acts upon subsidence farmers and how this in turn acts upon their perceptions of fairness.


Jeroen 01.12.11 at 10:39 am

As additional (and entertaining) reading for the Orgs week on “scientific management”, I would suggest Matthew Stewart’s “The Management Myth”. It does put Taylor’s ideas in (a contemporary) perspective.


Chris Brooke 01.12.11 at 10:40 am



BlaiseP 01.12.11 at 12:21 pm

The works of Hirschmann are an education, in and of themselves. Working with refugees (mostly Hmong, but many from Vietnam and the Balkans) , I’ve watched the wildly different strategies various cultures have used to integrate into the USA’s economic framework. Several cases in point: Hausa in NYC gravitate to driving cabs, in Chicago, the Yoruba occupy the same niche.

May I recommend Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo: The Experimental Approach to Development Economics


Ben 01.12.11 at 10:32 pm

Perhaps something diretly on moral economy? I’d recommend Gutman’s ‘Work, Culture, and Society in Industrializing America, 1815-1919’, in Herbert Gutman (ed.) Work, Culture, and Society in Industrializing America. New York: Vintage, 1977.

Markets are so strong in the US that students might equate economy with markets and take that extreme level of commodification for granted as ‘natural’ or universal. Gutman’s work puts the taken for granted into the perspective of cultural relativity. He shows how waves of immigrants expressed moral outrage at the commodification of certain things. Notably, the Jewish food riots when Jewish immigrants to NY wanted food prices to be regulated by the Rabbis (under Jewish law profits on certain foods are limited). That would seem to be bang on topic for morals and markets.


y81 01.12.11 at 11:37 pm

I think the Markets and Moral Order syllabus tilts a little “left” (using the word in a very amorphous and ill-defined way). Maybe add something by Richard Posner? Unfortunately, since I haven’t read all of the items currently on the syllabus, I don’t feel comfortable recommending what could be dropped. For this reason, I wasn’t going to comment (substantively), until others broke the rule about no net increase, which led me to abandon that constraint. (See “Broken Windows” . . .)


AntiAlias 01.12.11 at 11:51 pm

Of course he’s not. Drugs only need to be created once.

I differ. Drug’s only need is to be consumed.


Ben 01.13.11 at 1:36 am

Woops, I didn’t notice the no net increase rule. Oh well, that’s your problem. (Well, OK, maybe you don’t need Zelizer and Quinn, although they are faves of mine, so maybe you can drop one of the many I don’t know).


Joe Heath 01.13.11 at 1:49 am

I would add Alvin Roth’s “Repugnance as a constraint on markets” ( to Week 4 and drop the Bowles.

Roth’s work on paired kidney exchange helps to disentangle several threads in the “limits to markets/critique of commodification” argument. He shows, in effect, that people have no objections to the principle of exchange itself, even exchange governed by self-interested motives — so the issue must be either a concern about boundary-crossing (i.e. money for kidneys), or else (more likely) inequality of endowments. All of this suggests that there may be little to the anti-commodification critique beyond a concern over background inequality.

Along the same vein, Fred Hirsch has some nice stuff in The Social Limits to Growth about commodification degrading the quality (or changing the character) of a good — sex being the most obvious example. It’s a bit less hectoring than the standard (moralizing) critique.


chris 01.13.11 at 4:06 pm

Along the same vein, Fred Hirsch has some nice stuff in The Social Limits to Growth about commodification degrading the quality (or changing the character) of a good—sex being the most obvious example.

IANA historian, but I thought that commodified sex wasn’t particularly degraded in societies where it isn’t also condemned. (The spread of Abrahamic influence has made those societies rather thin on the ground, which is why historians are better positioned to speak on this point.) Social condemnation can degrade practically anything.

The problem with money for kidneys is that then the people with the most money would have the best chance of getting kidneys, and life or death matters are too important to be left up to the arbitrariness of wealth. Death should not be a market outcome. (This is also why the critique doesn’t bite for economic Calvinists, who believe that wealth, as it actually exists in a market economy, is a valid measure of human worth, and people who have a lot of money have ipso facto proven they deserve it.)


Sam C 01.13.11 at 10:29 pm

Coincidentally I’m also putting together a syllabus on (roughly) this topic, under the title ‘Capitalism as an Ethical Problem’. Very different group: 100+ 2nd and 3rd-year undergrads, a mixture mostly from philosophy, religious studies, politics and PPE, lectures and large seminars. I’m less advanced with it than Kieran Healy is with his: I have the bones of the lectures, but I’m still thinking about the set reading. I hope Kieran will forgive me posting a sketch, for comparison but also in the hope of helpful suggestions. These get more tentative as they go on…

Freedom: what is the relation between capitalism and freedom? in 2 parts: 1) freedom as non-coercion; 2) freedom as non-domination and economic democracy
* Theodore Zeldin, An Intimate History of Humanity: 1-13
* F A Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty: ch. 1
* Philip Pettit, Republicanism: ch. 2
* Erik Olin Wright, Envisioning Real Utopias: selections on workplace democracy (or maybe some of Robert Dahl, A Preface to Economic Democracy)

Ownership: if our current regime of individual ownership didn’t exist, what reason would there be to invent it?
* Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘Hamatreya’ & ‘Earth song’
* Marvin Harris, Our Kind: selections on life without chiefs and property
* John Locke, 2nd Treatise: chs 2-5
* Christopher Hill, The World Turned Upside Down: ch. 7 (Levellers and Diggers)

Opulence: is wealth good or bad for us?
* Gregory Clark, A Farewell to Alms: Introduction
* Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations: selections on division of labour
* Henry David Thoreau, Walden: ‘Economy’
* Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom: ch. on poverty as capability deprivation
* post-scarcity utopias: maybe Murray Bookchin? maybe selections from Spufford, Red Plenty? Maybe some Iain M. Banks?

Making a Living: what does the capitalist form of work do to us?
* Jon Elster, ‘Self-realisation in work and politics: the Marxist conception of the good life’
* Marx on commodity fetishism
* William Morris, News from Nowhere: selections

Virtue & Vice: does capitalism corrupt or improve us?
* Dierdre McCloskey, The Bourgeois Virtues: ch. 1
* G. A. Cohen, Why Not Socialism?
* conservative anti-capitalism: maybe Alasdair MacIntyre? maybe Christopher Lasch?

* really not sure about this: either critiques and defences of utopianism (Popper, Buber) or capitalist and anti-capitalist utopias (David Friedman vs Ursula Le Guin vs Edmund Bellamy?).

Suggestions welcome…


Chris Williams 01.14.11 at 11:04 am

Interesting post, Kieran, thanks.

I see that in Week 3 you are big on Taylor. I’m a historian rather than a specialist social scientist (I have a copy of Dicksee’s _Business Methods and the War_ (CUP, 1915) on my desk right now, on top of _The Visible Hand_), but I’m convinced (following a reading a JoAnne Yates’ _Control through Communication_) that scientific management was itself a subset of systematic management, which arose during the mid C19th. Scientific managament dealt only with the some aspects of the organisation of labour on the shop floor, whereas systematic management dealt with the information and command structures of the firm.

Taylorism strikes me as one of those extreme and easily-taught positions which actually had a more limited concrete impact than we might think. The fact that managers kept going on about it certainly tells us something that we need to know about management, but does it tell us quite so much about how the job was actually done. But I might be reading this impression off incorrectly, given that it’s a conclusion that I reached when looking at the way that the intellectual history of another subject area – criminology – is taught. Lombroso was very interesting indeed, but not nearly as relevant to the development of C19th criminal justice practice than the far more mundane Gross.

With you on Braverman. Why not give them an extract from _Saturday Night Sunday Morning_, or a Stakhanovite novel, in order to give them a flavour of how the Taylorist idea worked in practice?


Daniel Rosenblatt 01.14.11 at 4:24 pm

Apologies in advance: I’m going to join the crowd of people with suggestions for addition, but not deletion. I’m just not familiar with enough of the works on the syllabus to know which ones are expendable.

I’m an anthropologist, and I’d say generally that economic anthropology might have something to offer, namely a perspective that sees markets as only one historically and culturally specific form of human economic activity. (OK, I know we are not the only ones who do this, but I think we are the only ones for whom this is a mainstream view). What I’m going to suggest in particular is a piece by Marshall Sahlins (who worked with Polanyi btw) that attempts to describe some of the cultural conditions of possibility for the existence of a market-based society.
Sahlins, Marshall 1996 The Sadness of Sweetness. CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY Volume 37, Number 3, June I996.
“This paper attempts to lend a broad “archaeological” support to Sidney Mintz’s Sweetness and Power by discussing certain major anthropological themes of the long term in the Judeo-Christian cosmology that seem particularly relevant to Western economic behavior-especially consumption issues-in the 18th century. The pleasure-pain principle of human action, the idea of an irresistible and egoistical human nature underlying social behavior, the sense of society as an order of power or coercion, and a confidence in the greater providential value of human suffering figure among these anthropological themes. It is also argued that they continue to inhabit mainstream Western social science—to the bedevilment of our understandings of other peoples.”


Joshua Broady Preiss 01.14.11 at 5:16 pm

Gintis et al (2005) Moral Sentiments and Material Interests, contains a number of possibilities, with the first chapter (by the editors themselves) providing a useful overview of the material.


Michael M 01.16.11 at 11:01 pm

As this is really a suggestion for an addition to the reading list, so much as a suggestion for possibly useful, light background reading, I think you and your students might be interested in Robert Paul Wolff’s “Formal Methods in Political Philosophy” ( His criticisms of the use of game theory in political theory, and its misapplication (as he sees it) in Rawls, Nozick and others is both interesting and clear. I wouldn’t recommend it as, nor is it intended to be, a scholarly source (although there are links to a few of Wolff’s scholarly articles), but instead as an interesting take on certain trends in political philosophy.
At his other blog he’s also writing about Marx.


Michael M 01.16.11 at 11:02 pm

By the way, the first sentence above should actually read : “As this is NOT a suggestion for an addition…”
Sorry about that.

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