Saturday, September 15, 2007

Course Outline

Course Description
The purpose of this fourth year seminar course is to investigate in detail alternative economic formations which are characterized by some degree of “mutuality”, such as non-profits, co-operatives, worker-owned firms and local economy organizations. This course will take an interdisciplinary approach to this topic by wedding the history and theory of these formations with a critical, empirical, and practice based investigation of the contemporary forms, successes, and failures of these institutions.

While this course is primarily designed for fourth year Business and Society (Honours) majors, and is particularly relevant for those interested in pursuing a career path in the non-profit sector, it is relevant for anyone interested in the history, theory and practice of alternative economics. Therefore, its focus is on developing a keen understanding of the successes and failures of past and current “social economy” formations, and the possibility that the social economy might be integrated into an alternative economic development strategy. We will look at what this strategy might be, why we might need an “alternative” strategy if the current status quo economic system is said to be efficient for delivering us goods and services (is it?), and what the role of the state is in an alternative economic model (do we even need the state?)

The course will be broken into these five broad sections: (I) Outlining the Issue of Alternative Economics, (II) History, Theory and Debates, (III) The Social Economy Today, (IV) Co-operatives, and (V) The Social Economy and Local Development.

With an eye toward the students’ pending entry into the work-world or post-graduate academic study, the course will develop the following competencies:

1) A clear understanding of the history, theories and debates which inspire and mark various forms of alternative economic association
2) A critical understanding of the practical issues which challenge the successful development of alternative economic forms
3) An understanding of the relationship between alternative economic forms and the social, political, and cultural world which surrounds them
4) Critical writing, oral presentation and practical economic analysis

Because of the practical and empirical focus of this course, emphasis will be placed on developing an interface with actual practitioners in the broad field of social economy. There will be speakers brought in from the field to address the class on contemporary issues, concerns and solutions. There will also be at least one field trip to a local co-operative institution in the second term. Finally, students will be asked to develop a concrete strategic analysis of a local alternative economic firm or organization as part of the practical component of the course.


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