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

Winter 2017 quarter

Taught by

political economy, political science
historical sociology, information studies


Prior college-level work in history and/or political economy.

This program will investigate four periods of crisis and transformation in the US, focusing on their impact on political economy, social movements, and the media.  While crises are often seen as "rough times" unexpectedly and temporarily interrupting what is taken as a "normal" aspect of progress, we will study them as aspects of fundamental change and restructuring which result 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, 2011-12’s Occupy was their first experience of a mass opposition movement.  Yet these were not new phenomena in the US.  We will place our current crisis in historical and theoretical context through the examination of four major periods of political-economic crisis and transformation.  Two periods 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 period of crisis, spanning the end of the revolutionary war through the ratification of the Constitution.  Each period was characterized by economic crisis and social upheaval, raising new political-economic possibilities and closing off others, ultimately resulting in a transformation of US capitalism.

We will also address the crisis of US journalism, providing theoretical and historical context by looking at the way critical  junctures in the evolution of the media (involving print journalism, telegraph, radio, and internet) coincided or not with the major crises of capitalism.  We will pay special attention to 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

history political economy political science sociology

Preparatory For

graduate study in political economy, political science, history and historical sociology, teacher education programs, and informed citizenship.


Winter Open

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered


Advertised Schedule

First class meeting: Tuesday, January 10 at 10am (Sem II A3105).

Online Learning

No Required Online Learning


2016-02-12Paul McMillin joins Jeanne Hahn to offer this program. This program will now accept Sophomores through Seniors.