About the Program
Bachelor of Arts (BA)
The Political Economy major is designed to study the relationship between government, society, and the economy in a holistic manner from a multi-disciplinary perspective. Political Economy majors investigate how real-world market systems are embedded in both politics and society. They graduate with a mastery of a broad range of contemporary analyses as well as a deep understanding of classic works of political economy.
The study of Political Economy is both scientific, with its rigorous attention to social science methodology, and normative, with its concern for the big questions of how best to organize politics, society, and the economy. Political Economy seeks to examine the role of the state in the economy and to assess which government policies and market institutions can move us toward a better society.
The major focuses on contemporary problems while building on a strong historical foundation. Students can choose to study such topics as economic development, trade and investment, global inequality, climate change, resource distribution, gender relations, financial systems, information technology, or health policy.
Some of the issues addressed in the major and its courses include, but are not limited to:
Declaring the Major
All students who declare Political Economy must meet the eligibility requirements listed below:
- Must have a cumulative UC Berkeley grade point average (GPA) of 2.7 or higher.
- Must have completed GLOBAL 45 (IAS 45) with a grade of B- or higher on the first attempt. Students who repeat GLOBAL 45 in order to achieve a grade of B- or higher will not be eligible to declare the Political Economy major.
- Must have completed ECON 1 or ECON 2 with a grade of C or better (may be repeated only once to achieve a grade of C or better), completed the equivalent at another college, or received AP scores of 4 or better or IB score of 5 or better on both the microeconomics and macroeconomics exams.
- Must not be in their final semester of undergraduate work.
- Are encouraged—but not required—to have completed at least two semesters of college-level foreign language or the equivalent.
- Complete a major declaration workshop (found on the Political Economy website).
- Complete the PE application found on the Political Economy website and send it to a PE advisor as a fillable PDF within 24 hours of your appointment (detailed instructions are found on the PE application).
To graduate with honors from the group major in PE, students must enroll in the two-semester honors seminar, GLOBAL H102 (fall only) and POLECON H195 (spring only) and must obtain a grade point average (GPA) of 3.6 in the major and 3.5 in overall University coursework. The honors seminar (POLECON H195) is taken in addition to a student's regular course work for fulfilling requirements for the major and culminates in the writing of a senior thesis. To qualify for POLECON H195, students must be recommended by the GLOBAL H102 instructor. The thesis is read by the POLECON H195 instructor and at least one other faculty member who is selected by the student in consultation with the thesis instructor. Please consult a program advisor about honors eligibility.
There is no guarantee that students accepted into the honors program will graduate with honors. Honors recommendations are made after graduation and are based on a number of factors including (but not limited to) major GPA, grades received for GLOBAL H102 and POLECON H195, and faculty adviser recommendations.
Political Economy (PE) offers a five-course minor that is open to all undergraduates except PE majors. Applications for the minor and a list of approved concentration courses, in addition to POLECON 100 and POLECON 101, are available from Political Economy advisors. To apply for the minor, students must have completed one course in the minor with a grade of B or better and must have an overall GPA of 2.0. The completed PE minor application and a “Completion of L&S Minor” form must be submitted to Political Economy advisors in the ISSP Office at 101 Stephens Hall no later than the last day of instruction of the semester immediately preceding the student’s final semester. The “Completion of L&S Minor” form can be found on the L&S website.
In addition to the University, campus, and college requirements, listed on the College Requirements tab, students must fulfill the below requirements specific to their major program.
Students who earn a grade of F, D-, D, D+, or NP may repeat the course only once. Regardless of the grade, the student receives for their second attempt (including F, D-, D, or D+), the student may not repeat the course a third time.
- All courses taken to fulfill the major requirements below must be taken for a letter grade. (The only exceptions to this rule are language courses. All language classes, including the final semester, may be taken for a letter grade or Pass/No Pass).
- No more than one upper division course may be used simultaneously to fulfill requirements for a student's major and minor programs with the exception of minors offered outside of the College of Letters & Science.
- A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 must be maintained in both upper and lower division courses used to fulfill the major requirements.
- A minimum UC GPA of 2.7 or higher is required for declaration.
For information regarding residence requirements and unit requirements, please see the College Requirements tab.
Summary of Major Requirements
|Lower Division Requirements: Three courses|
|Language Requirement: Proficiency equivalent to four college-level semesters|
|Upper Division Requirements: Nine courses|
Lower Division Requirements
|GLOBAL 45||Survey of World History||4|
|Select one of the following:|
|ECON 1||Introduction to Economics 2||4|
|ECON 2||Introduction to Economics--Lecture Format 2||4|
|Select one of the following:|
|STAT 2||Introduction to Statistics||4|
|STAT C8||Foundations of Data Science||4|
|STAT 20||Introduction to Probability and Statistics||4|
|STAT 21||Introductory Probability and Statistics for Business||4|
|STAT W21||Introductory Probability and Statistics for Business||4|
Foreign Language Requirement
Political Economy (PE) majors must demonstrate proficiency in a modern language other than English by the last semester of their senior year. Proficiency is equivalent to the ability achieved in four college-level semesters (or two years). Language courses taken in high school do not satisfy this requirement. See below for details on how to fulfill the foreign language requirement.
Languages accepted by the College of Letters & Science are not automatically accepted by the Political Economy program. Please check with a PE adviser for eligible languages.
There are a variety of ways to fulfill the four-semester language requirement for PE depending on the individual and his or her background and ability.
- Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) test: An AP score of 5 or an International Baccalaureate (IB) score of 7 will complete this requirement. An AP score of 4 will place a student into the fourth-semester college-level course. A score of 3 will place a student into the third-semester college-level course. Documentation of AP scores must be provided.
- Coursework: Any combination of college courses, summer programs, or college-level study abroad programs may satisfy the language requirement. Language classes are the only classes used to fulfill major requirements that may be taken for a letter grade or Pass/No Pass. This includes the fourth semester. Language courses need not be taken at Berkeley. Courses taken at a community college or any accredited school or university may be acceptable. A one-semester upper division course taken abroad in the target language may satisfy the foreign language requirement, depending on the school and program followed. For more information, see a PE adviser concerning language study abroad.
- Proficiency exam: Some, but not all, language departments on campus offer proficiency testing for students with advanced skills in that language. Please note that if a particular language is not taught on the UC Berkeley campus, then students are not able to test in that language. A student would then need to choose one of the other methods for fulfilling the foreign language requirement. Please speak with a PE adviser about proficiency testing.
- High school completion in a non-English language: Students who were educated in a non-English language through the completion of high school or the equivalent may wish to satisfy this requirement with that experience. This requires a language proficiency exam.
Upper Division Requirements
|POLECON 100||Classical Theories of Political Economy 3||4|
|POLECON 101||Contemporary Theories of Political Economy 4||4|
|Select one of the following:|
|ECON 100A||Economic Analysis--Micro||4|
|ECON 101A||Economic Theory--Micro||4|
|ENVECON 100||Microeconomic Theory with Application to Natural Resources||4|
|UGBA 101A||Microeconomic Analysis for Business Decisions||3|
|POLECON 106||Intermediate Microeconomic Theory||4|
|Select one of the following:|
|ECON 100B||Economic Analysis--Macro||4|
|ECON 101B||Economic Theory--Macro||4|
|UGBA 101B||Macroeconomic Analysis for Business Decisions||3|
|POLECON 107||Intermediate Macroeconomic Theory||4|
|Select one of the following:|
|ECON 113||U.S Economic History||4|
|ECON 115||The World Economy in the Twentieth Century||4|
|HISTORY 124A||The Recent United States: The United States from the Late 19th Century to the Eve of World War II||4|
|HISTORY 124B||The Recent United States: The United States from World War II||4|
|HISTORY 125B||African American History and Race Relations: 1860-2016||4|
|HISTORY 131B||Social History of the United States: Creating Modern American Society: From the End of the Civil War to the Global Age||4|
|HISTORY 158C||Modern Europe: Old and New Europe, 1914-Present||4|
|HISTORY 160||The International Economy of the 20th Century||4|
|HISTORY 162B||War and Peace: International Relations since 1914||4|
|POLECON 160||Political Economy in Historical Context||4|
|UGBA C172||History of American Business||3|
|The concentration is made up of four upper division courses (no more than two may be taken from the same department). See the Concentration section below for more guidance.|
(GLOBAL N45, IAS 45, IAS N45). You must earn a B- or better to declare. This course may not be repeated to achieve a grade of B- or better.
You must earn a C or better to declare. This course can only be repeated once.
Prerequisite: POLECON 100.
The concentration is made up of four courses. Within the concentration, only two courses may be taken from the same department. Up to three courses taken abroad may count, provided they conform to the concentration topic; a syllabus in English must be provided.
The PE concentration is the theoretical focal point in the major. It is meant to give students the opportunity to deepen their understanding of political economy around an area of particular interest to them. The concentration is perhaps the greatest benefit of the Political Economy major because it allows students to apply the theoretical and methodological knowledge they have gained to a topic about which they feel particularly drawn or curious. Students spend four courses focusing on this material, so it is important for students to be thoughtful and develop a topic about which they enjoy learning.
To get started on the concentration, students should think about an existing or potential issue or question in political economy. Then they should choose four courses that will inform or increase their understanding about that issue. These courses should all relate to the topic as well as to one another. Students are encouraged to be imaginative in defining a concentration. A concentration issue is formulated by the student with the assistance of a PE advisor who can help to explain, clarify, or perhaps challenge that issue. Students having a difficult time formulating a concentration should think about the classes they have taken which they enjoyed the most and consider what topics they learned about in those courses. Also, topics covered in GLOBAL 45 (GLOBAL N45, IAS 45, IAS N45), POLECON 100, and POLECON 101 are a good place to start.
Some sample concentration topics include, but most certainly are not limited to:
- Public Policy and Socioeconomic Inequality in the US
- Political Economy of China
- Environmental Policy in Post-Industrial Societies
- Resource Distribution and Development
Departments and disciplines to consider when searching for concentration courses: Global Studies; Political Economy; Political Science; Economics; Sociology; Geography; History; Public Policy; Environmental Economics and Policy; Public Health; Gender and Women's Studies; Legal Studies; Environmental Science, Policy, and Management; and City and Regional Planning. Courses from these departments and disciplines are not guaranteed approval for a concentration, nor are students limited to the above list; this is just a good starting point. For a list of Pre-designed Political Economy concentrations, please visit the Political Economy website.
To have a concentration approved, students must submit a two to four paragraph description of the particular issue they would like to study. Students must also submit a list of their four proposed courses along with a brief explanation (two to three sentences each) of how each course relates to their proposed concentration. Please use the form provided on the Political Economy website. Concentration proposals must be submitted in-person to a PE adviser along with the complete PE application. Students may be asked to provide syllabi for certain courses.
Please note that if an adviser determines a concentration proposal needs to be developed further, it will not be submitted for review by the Political Economy Faculty Committee until revisions have been made. For this reason, it is best not to delay speaking with a PE adviser about concentration topic ideas. concentration proposals are reviewed by the Political Economy Faculty Committee and students are notified by email if their concentration has been accepted or is being returned for revisions.
Any subsequent changes to already approved concentration topics and/or courses must be submitted to a PE advisor for review and approval by the Political Economy Faculty Committee prior to altering the concentration.
Students who have a strong interest in an area of study outside their major often decide to complete a minor program. These programs have set requirements and are noted officially on the transcript in the memoranda section, but they are not noted on diplomas.
Political Economy Minor Rules and General Guidelines:
- All minors must be declared no later than one semester before a student's Expected Graduation Term (EGT). If the semester before EGT is fall or spring, the deadline is the last day of RRR week. If the semester before EGT is summer, the deadline is the final Friday of Summer Sessions. To declare a minor, contact the department advisor for information on requirements, and the declaration process.
- All courses towards the minor must be upper division, at least three-semester units, and taken for a letter grade.
- No more than two courses may be taken from the same department.
- A minimum of three courses towards the minor must be taken at UC Berkeley.
- All transfer courses (e.g. Study Abroad) must be approved by a Political Economy minor advisor.
- POLECON 197, 198, and 199 cannot be used to fulfill minor requirements.
- A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 must be achieved in all course work used to satisfy the minor requirements.
- No more than one upper division course may be used to simultaneously fulfill requirements for a student's major and minor programs.
- Courses used to fulfill the minor requirements may be applied toward the Seven-Course Breadth requirement for Letters & Science students.
- All minor requirements must be completed prior to the last day of finals during the semester in which the student plans to graduate. Students who cannot finish all courses required for the minor by that time should see an advisor in the College of Letters & Science.
- All minor requirements must be completed within the unit ceiling. (For further information regarding the unit ceiling, please see the College Requirements tab.)
Students are eligible to declare the Political Economy Minor when they:
- Have completed at least one course for the minor at UCB with a grade of B or higher, or have completed at least two courses for the minor (not necessarily at UCB) with a minimum GPA of 2.0;
- Have a cumulative UCB GPA of 2.0 as shown on the Student Account in CalCentral;
- Are not be in their final semester of undergraduate work.
Your complete Political Economy minor application consists of:
- Minor Application Form and Program Worksheet.
- The “Completion of L&S Minor” form (found on the Political Economy website) signed by the student and the major adviser.
Submit the completed, signed application packet to the Political Economy minor advisor via an appointment.
Requirements for the Political Economy Minor
|Five Required Upper Division Courses, Including:|
|POLECON 100||Classical Theories of Political Economy||4|
|POLECON 101||Contemporary Theories of Political Economy||4|
Three courses related to one of the three topics given below:
Poverty, Inequality, and Policy
Science, Technology, and Economic Development
Click here for a list of courses for the Political Economy minor.
Undergraduate students must fulfill the following requirements in addition to those required by their major program.
For detailed lists of courses that fulfill college requirements, please review the College of Letters & Sciences page in this Guide. For College advising appointments, please visit the L&S Advising Pages.
University of California Requirements
All students who will enter the University of California as freshmen must demonstrate their command of the English language by fulfilling the Entry Level Writing requirement. Fulfillment of this requirement is also a prerequisite to enrollment in all reading and composition courses at UC Berkeley.
The American History and Institutions requirements are based on the principle that a US resident graduated from an American university, should have an understanding of the history and governmental institutions of the United States.
Berkeley Campus Requirement
All undergraduate students at Cal need to take and pass this course in order to graduate. The requirement offers an exciting intellectual environment centered on the study of race, ethnicity and culture of the United States. AC courses offer students opportunities to be part of research-led, highly accomplished teaching environments, grappling with the complexity of American Culture.
College of Letters & Science Essential Skills Requirements
The Quantitative Reasoning requirement is designed to ensure that students graduate with basic understanding and competency in math, statistics, or computer science. The requirement may be satisfied by exam or by taking an approved course.
The Foreign Language requirement may be satisfied by demonstrating proficiency in reading comprehension, writing, and conversation in a foreign language equivalent to the second semester college level, either by passing an exam or by completing approved course work.
In order to provide a solid foundation in reading, writing, and critical thinking the College requires two semesters of lower division work in composition in sequence. Students must complete parts A & B reading and composition courses by the end of their second semester and a second-level course by the end of their fourth semester.
College of Letters & Science 7 Course Breadth Requirements
The undergraduate breadth requirements provide Berkeley students with a rich and varied educational experience outside of their major program. As the foundation of a liberal arts education, breadth courses give students a view into the intellectual life of the University while introducing them to a multitude of perspectives and approaches to research and scholarship. Engaging students in new disciplines and with peers from other majors, the breadth experience strengthens interdisciplinary connections and context that prepares Berkeley graduates to understand and solve the complex issues of their day.
120 total units
Of the 120 units, 36 must be upper division units
- Of the 36 upper division units, 6 must be taken in courses offered outside your major department
For units to be considered in "residence," you must be registered in courses on the Berkeley campus as a student in the College of Letters & Science. Most students automatically fulfill the residence requirement by attending classes here for four years. In general, there is no need to be concerned about this requirement, unless you go abroad for a semester or year or want to take courses at another institution or through UC Extension during your senior year. In these cases, you should make an appointment to meet an adviser to determine how you can meet the Senior Residence Requirement.
Note: Courses taken through UC Extension do not count toward residence.
Senior Residence Requirement
After you become a senior (with 90 semester units earned toward your BA degree), you must complete at least 24 of the remaining 30 units in residence in at least two semesters. To count as residence, a semester must consist of at least 6 passed units. Intercampus Visitor, EAP, and UC Berkeley-Washington Program (UCDC) units are excluded.
You may use a Berkeley Summer Session to satisfy one semester of the Senior Residence requirement, provided that you successfully complete 6 units of course work in the Summer Session and that you have been enrolled previously in the college.
Modified Senior Residence Requirement
Participants in the UC Education Abroad Program (EAP), Berkeley Summer Abroad, or the UC Berkeley Washington Program (UCDC) may meet a Modified Senior Residence requirement by completing 24 (excluding EAP) of their final 60 semester units in residence. At least 12 of these 24 units must be completed after you have completed 90 units.
Upper Division Residence Requirement
You must complete in residence a minimum of 18 units of upper division courses (excluding UCEAP units), 12 of which must satisfy the requirements for your major.
Plan of Study
Students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the Political Economy major requirements before making a program plan. For more detailed information regarding the courses listed below (e.g., elective information, GPA requirements, etc.), see the College Requirements and Major Requirements tabs.
|STAT 2, C8, 20, 21, or W21||4||ECON 1 or 2 (Social and Behavioral Sciences Breadth)||4|
|Reading & Composition A||4||Reading & Composition B||4|
|Language 1 of 4||5||Language 2 of 4||5|
|L&S Breadth||3||L&S Breadth||3|
|GLOBAL 45||4||POLECON 106||4|
|POLECON 107||4||L&S Breadth||3|
|Language 3 of 4 (International Studies Breadth)||5||American Cultures Requirement||4|
|Lower Division Elective||3||Language 4 of 4||5|
|POLECON 100||4||POLECON 101||4|
|L&S Breadth||4||Upper Division Historical Context||4|
|Upper Division Elective: Outside Major Department||3||L&S Breadth||3|
|Upper Division Elective: Outside Major Department||3||Lower or Upper Division Elective||4|
|Concentration 1 of 4||4||Concentration 3 of 4||4|
|Concentration 2 of 4||4||Concentration 4 of 4||4|
|Lower or Upper Division Elective||4||Lower or Upper Division Elective||3|
|Lower or Upper Division Elective||3||Lower or Upper Division Elective||3|
|Total Units: 122|
- This is a sample program plan. This plan assumes that the student has completed the Entry Level Writing, American History and Institutions, Quantitative Reasoning, and Foreign Language requirements prior to admission.
- Students are strongly advised to work with an academic advisor to determine a personal program plan. Your program plan will differ depending on previous credit received, your course schedule, and available offerings.
- Same comment about foreign language.
- Students could also do the HONORS program in their last year, provided they take electives or concentration classes in the summer OR take more units than indicated in the first six semesters.
Student Learning Goals
Learning Goals for the Major
- Interdisciplinary Training in the Social Sciences
- Develop a working knowledge of the approaches to understanding modern societies found in the classical social theory tradition from Machiavelli and Hobbes to Keynes and Polanyi.
- Develop a working knowledge of the core concepts of modern political economy approaches since Keynes and Polanyi.
- Understand the analytical tools of each of the relevant social science disciplines.
- Analysis of Political Economy Theory and Practice
- Build specific expertise in that particular area of modern political economy studied by the student’s individual concentration.
- Understand and analyze the impact on their concentration area of modern global economic, political, and civil society conditions.
- Understand the processes of historical development that have led their particular concentration area to its current civilization.
- Historical Knowledge
- Be able to use the history of the North Atlantic region since the industrial revolution as a set of benchmarks, contrasts, and yardsticks useful for analyzing and understanding modern political economy issues.
- Understand the historical process that has created our modern global economy, polity, and civil society.
- Language Skills
- Acquire competency in a foreign language.
- Participate in the education abroad program, if possible.
- Demonstrate Research, Critical Reading, and Writing Skills
- Formulate well-organized arguments supported by proper use of social-science disciplinary tools; of historical and comparative contrasts and models; of top-down systemic and bottom-up individual analytical perspectives; and of aggregate statistical and individual case-study evidence.
- Write clearly and effectively.
- Apply appropriate quantitative analytical skills.
Faculty and Instructors
+ Indicates this faculty member is the recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award.
Richard Ashcroft, Lecturer.
+ Maximilian Auffhammer, Professor. Climate change, econometrics, air pollution, environmental economics, energy economics.
Stephanie Ballenger, Lecturer. Interdisciplinary Social Science Programs.
David Beecher, Lecturer. Interdisciplinary Social Science Programs, Political Economy.
Crystal Chang Cohen, Lecturer.
+ Khalid Kadir, Lecturer. Global Poverty & Practice Minor, International & Area Studies.
Alan Karras, Associate Director, Interdisciplinary Social Science Programs and Senior Lecturer. Interdisciplinary Social Science Programs, Political Economy.
Mario Muzzi, Lecturer.
Matthew Specter, Lecturer.
Clare Talwalker, Lecturer. Global Studies, Global Poverty and Practice, Political Economy, South Asia.
Steven Vogel, Professor and Chair of Political Economy. Political economy or comparative political economy, market governance, regulation, the Japanese model of capitalism, Japanese politics, political science.
Interdisciplinary Social Science Programs
101 Stephens Hall
Professor, Political Science, Chair, Political Economy
768 Barrows Hall
123 Stephens Hall
Undergraduate Academic Advisor
101 Stephens Hall
Undergraduate Academic Advisor, Graduate Student Affairs Officer
101 Stephens Hall
Undergraduate Academic Advisor
101 Stephens Hall