Crisis and Transformation in the U.S.: Political Economy, Social Movements, and Media

Winter 2016 quarter

Taught by

political economy, political science
historical sociology, information studies

While crises are often seen as rough times, unexpectedly and temporarily interrupting what is taken as normal, we will study them as aspects of fundamental change and restructuring resulting in opportunities for some and reversals for others, often setting in motion a new political-economic trajectory.

For many, the economic and political crisis of the past decade was their first experience with a relatively sudden and severe economic downturn in which political priorities are restructured and outcomes uncertain. Similarly, for many, Occupy was their first experience of a mass opposition movement. These were not new phenomena in the United States. We will place our current crisis in historical and theoretical context through the examination of four periods of political-economic crisis and transformation, focusing on political economy, social movements, and the media. Two are well known: our current crisis and the deep depression that bridged the close of World War I to the opening of World War II. Another largely forgotten period is the Great Depression of the late 19th century, out of which emerged a modern industrialized United States. Additionally, we will investigate the first crisis, spanning the end of the Revolutionary War through the ratification of the Constitution. Each period was characterized by economic crisis and social upheaval, ultimately resulting in a transformation of U.S. capitalism.

The crisis of U.S. journalism and the media with their growing potential to reach a large population will be placed in historical and theoretical context. We will study the way critical junctures in the evolution of the media (the advent of the newspaper, telegraph, radio, and Internet) coincided with the major crises of capitalism, how and when the media served the interests of the powerful, and how and when the media served the interests of social movements.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

history, the social sciences, media, teaching, and informed citizenship.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


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Online Learning

No Required Online Learning

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Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Winter)

Class standing: Sophomore–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 50


Course Reference Numbers

So (16 credits): 20135
So (16 credits): 20136
Sr (16 credits): 20137

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