UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


Rethinking Capitalism – a new elective module for UCL undergraduates

This module will provide students with a critical perspective on ‘grand-challenges’ affecting Western Capitalism and introduce them to new approaches to economics and policy.

Credit: Chris Ison/PA

About the module

Western Capitalism is in crisis, with falling productivity, investment and living standards, widening inequality, financial instability and the growing threat of climate change. This module – available to all 2nd and 3rd year UCL students - will provide students with a critical perspective on these ‘grand-challenges’ and introduce them to new approaches to economics and policy which challenge standard thinking.

The module will draw on the book “Rethinking Capitalism”, edited by Mariana Mazzucato (Director of IIPP) and Michael Jacobs (Visiting fellow in the UCL School of Public Policy). It will feature guest academic lectures from some of the chapter authors – including Stephanie Kelton, William Lazonick, Mariana Mazzucato and Carlota Perez as well as other leading thinkers such as Branko MilanovicEric BeinhockerAndy Haldane and Dimitri Zenghelis along with IIPP Deputy Director Rainer Kattel and IIPP Head of Research Josh Ryan-Collins.  

To give students a real understanding of modern-day policy challenges, these lectures will be combined with presentations by policy makers working at the frontline of the issues under discussion, including from the Bank of England, the UK Treasury and government departments dealing with innovation and climate change. 

The module will provide students with new theoretical and policy perspectives on the following issues:

  1. The market shaping forces of capitalism
  2. Rethinking fiscal policy
  3. Economic rent, land and housing
  4. The firm, competition and the sources of productivity growth
  5. The economy as a complex and evolving system
  6. Governing the digital economy
  7. New approaches to inequality
  8. Money, monetary policy and financial regulation
  9. The economics of climate change and sustainability
  10. The fourth industrial revolution: challenges and opportunities

The module will help students develop their critical thinking and make the connections between economic theory and real-world policy issues. It will introduce a range of different economics perspectives, including Neoclassical, post-Keynesian, ecological, evolutionary, Marxist and institutional economics theories and how their different assumptions link to different public policies.

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Who can take the module?

The module would be suitable as an elective to a range of BA, BSc, BASc programmes, including in the Economics, SSEES, School of Public Policy, Institute of Education, the Bartlett and Engineering departments. The module does not require formal training in economics or any other quantitative or technical skills.

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Module structure

The module will involve one-hour lectures from the authors of the chapters in the book and/or IIPP staff along with one hour interactive presentations by policymakers working on the topics under discussion. As an example, we plan to invite Carlota Perez to give a lecture on the economics of innovation along with a senior civil servant from the Department of Business, Enterprise, Innovation and Skills to give an accompanying policy presentation.

The lectures would be complemented with a weekly one-hour small group seminar where ideas will be presented and discussed in greater depth. The module would be assessed via one short essay and a 2-hour exam.

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For further information about the module, please contact Cristy Meadows: c.meadows@ucl.ac.uk

Photo: Chris Ison/PA

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programmes economics innovation public policy government finance interdisciplinary