Political Economy

University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

Political Economy (PE) examines the relationship between politics and economics in modern societies and focuses on problems of both domestic and international policy. Based on the assumption that political-economic relationships are affected by any number of factors, such as society, culture, geography, and demographics, the curriculum is both multi and interdisciplinary in scope. The focus of the major is on contemporary issues, although a strong historical perspective is also emphasized. Students may also study planning and problem solving, environmental issues, resource distribution, and the challenges of institutional adaptation and changing political systems.

The major is designed to provide a broad-based liberal arts background as well as the intellectual skills appropriate for careers in either the public or private sector. Additionally, the major offers an excellent background for students planning postgraduate careers in social science disciplines or attending professional schools.

Some of the questions that the major addresses include the following:

  • The tension between rising consumer demand and the need to minimize resource depletion and pollution.
  • The different priorities served by capitalist, socialist, and other varieties of political economy.
  • The different priorities served by democratic, authoritarian, and other political systems.
  • How international interdependence may undermine the efforts of national governments to cope with unemployment, inflation, trade and payment deficits, health, housing and welfare problems, and other socioeconomic issues.
  • The importance of organizational structures for policy-making in both the public and private sectors.

Declaring the Major

All students who declare Political Economy must meet the eligibility requirements listed below:

  1. Must have a cumulative UC Berkeley grade point average (GPA) of 2.7 or higher.
  2. Must have completed IAS 45 (GLOBAL 45/POLECON 45) with a grade of B- or higher on the first attempt. Students who repeat IAS 45 in order to achieve a grade of B- or higher will not be eligible to declare the Political Economy major.
  3. 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.
  4. Must not be in their final semester of undergraduate work.
  5. Are encouraged—but not required—to have completed at least two semesters of college-level foreign language or the equivalent.
  6. Complete a major declaration workshop (found on the Political Economy website).
  7. Meet with an adviser to submit the PE Application materials.

For further information regarding the eligibility requirements, please contact a program adviser.

Honors Program

To graduate with honors from the group major in PE, students must enroll in the two-semester honors seminar, IAS 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 IAS 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. Eligibility for participating in the honors program is determined by the IAS office.

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 IAS H102 and POLECON H195, and faculty adviser recommendations.

Minor Program

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 the IAS Office. 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 the IAS 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 here.

Visit Program Website

Major Requirements

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.

Repeat Rule

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.

General Guidelines

  1. All courses taken to fulfill the major requirements below must be taken for graded credit, other than courses listed that are offered on a Pass/No Pass basis only. Other exceptions to this requirement are noted, as applicable.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

POLECON 45Survey of World History 14
Select one of the following:
ECON 1Introduction to Economics 24
ECON 2Introduction to Economics--Lecture Format 24
Select one of the following:
STAT 2Introduction to Statistics4
STAT C8Foundations of Data Science4
STAT 20Introduction to Probability and Statistics4
STAT 21Introductory Probability and Statistics for Business4

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.

  1. 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.
  2. Coursework: Any combination of college courses, summer programs, or college-level study abroad programs may satisfy the language requirement. At a minimum, students must complete the fourth semester (i.e., the second semester of intermediate level) of a language with a grade of C- or better in order to fulfill the requirement. The first, second, and third-level courses may be taken on a Pass/No Pass basis. Language courses need not be taken at Berkeley. Courses taken at a community college or any accredited school or university may be acceptable. Transcripts must be submitted and evaluated by a PE adviser. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 100Classical Theories of Political Economy 34
POLECON 101Contemporary Theories of Political Economy 44
Intermediate Microeconomics4
Select one of the following:
ECON 100AEconomic Analysis--Micro4
ECON 101AEconomic Theory--Micro4
ENVECON 100Microeconomic Theory with Application to Natural Resources4
UGBA 101AMicroeconomic Analysis for Business Decisions3
Intermediate Macroeconomics4
IAS 106Intermediate Microeconomic Theory4
Select one of the following:
ECON 100BEconomic Analysis--Macro4
ECON 101BEconomic Theory--Macro4
IAS 107Intermediate Macroeconomic Theory4
UGBA 101BMacroeconomic Analysis for Business Decisions3
Historical Context3-4
Select one of the following:
ECON 113American Economic History4
ECON 115The World Economy in the Twentieth Century4
HISTORY 124AThe Recent United States: The United States from the Late 19th Century to the Eve of World War II4
HISTORY 124BThe Recent United States: The United States from World War II4
HISTORY 125BHistory of African-Americans and Race Relations in the United States: Soul Power: African American History 1861-19804
HISTORY 131BSocial History of the United States: Creating Modern American Society: From the End of the Civil War to the Global Age4
HISTORY 158CModern Europe: Old and New Europe, 1914-Present4
HISTORY 160The International Economy of the 20th Century4
HISTORY 162BWar and Peace: International Relations since 19144
POLECON 160Political Economy in Historical Context4
POL SCI 122APolitics of European Integration4
UGBA C172History of American Business3
Concentration
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.
1

(IAS 45, IAS N45, POLECON N45). You must earn a B- or better to declare. This course may not be repeated to achieve a grade of B- or better.

2

You must earn a C or better to declare. This course can only be repeated once.

3

POLECON 100 must be taken before POLECON 101.

4

Prerequisite: POLECON 100.

Concentration

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 adviser 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 POLECON 45 (IAS 45, IAS N45, POLECON 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 online. 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 adviser for review and approval by the Political Economy Faculty Committee prior to altering the concentration.

Minor Requirements

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.

General Guidelines

  1. All courses taken to fulfill the minor requirements below must be taken for graded credit.
  2. A minimum of three of the upper division courses taken to fulfill the minor requirements must be completed at UC Berkeley.
  3. A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 is required for courses used to fulfill the minor requirements.
  4. Courses used to fulfill the minor requirements may be applied toward the Seven-Course Breadth requirement for Letters & Science students.
  5. No more than one upper division course may be used to simultaneously fulfill requirements for a student's major and minor programs.
  6. 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 a College of Letters & Science adviser.
  7. All minor requirements must be completed within the unit ceiling. (For further information regarding the unit ceiling, please see the College Requirements tab.)

To be eligible to declare the minor, students must:

  • Have completed at least one course for the minor at UCB with a grade of B or better, or have completed at least two courses for the minor (not necessarily at UCB) with a minimum GPA of 2.0, and
  • Not be in their final semester of undergraduate work.

A complete PE minor application consists of:

  1. Minor Application Form and Program Worksheet.
  2. A current CalCentral unofficial transcript with your name printed on it. Please highlight any courses that apply to the minor. Also, indicate which course (if any) will overlap between the minor and your major.
  3. The “Completion of L&S Minor” signed by the student and the major adviser.

Requirements for the Minor

Five Required Upper Division Courses, Including:
POLECON 100Classical Theories of Political Economy4
POLECON 101Contemporary Theories of Political Economy4

Three courses related to one of the three topics given below, with a statement explaining your course selection: 

  1. Globalization

  2. Poverty, Inequality, and Policy

  3. Science, Technology, and Economic Development

The course list for the Political Economy minor is available on the IAS website.

Important regulations governing the PE minor:

  1. No more than two courses may be taken from the same department.
  2. All courses counting for the minor must be taken for a letter grade.
  3. A minimum of three courses must be taken at UC Berkeley.
  4. All transfer courses must be approved by an adviser.
  5. PE 197, 198, and 199 cannot be used to fulfill minor requirements.
  6. A minimum GPA of 2.0 must be achieved in all course work used to satisfy the minor requirements.
  7. Only ONE course may count for both a major and a minor.

To declare the minor: Students must meet with a Political Economy adviser to review the application materials.  Bring the completed application (found on the IAS website:http://iastp.berkeley.edu/) and supporting documents to the IAS Office in 101 Stephens Hall and sign up to see an adviser.  Confirmation of your admission will be sent within fifteen working days of submitting your complete application. Once admitted, any changes to the program must be approved by a Political Economy adviser in advance.

College Requirements

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

Entry Level Writing

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. 

American History and American Institutions

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

American Cultures

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

Quantitative Reasoning

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.

Foreign Language

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.

Reading and Composition

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

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.

Unit Requirements

  • 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
Residence Requirements

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.

First Year
FallUnitsSpringUnits
STAT 2, 20, or 214ECON 1, 2, or ECON 3 (Social and Behavioral Sciences Breadth)4
Reading & Composition A4Reading & Composition B4
Language 1 of 45Language 2 of 45
L&S Breadth3L&S Breadth3
 16 16
Second Year
FallUnitsSpringUnits
IAS 454IAS 106 (Upper Division Micro Economics)4
IAS 107 (Upper Division Macro Economics)4L&S Breadth3
Language 3 of 4 (International Studies Breadth)5American Cultures Requirement4
Lower Division Elective3Language 4 of 45
 16 16
Third Year
FallUnitsSpringUnits
POLECON 1004POLECON 1014
L&S Breadth4Upper Division Historical Context4
Upper Division Elective: Outside Major Department3L&S Breadth3
Upper Division Elective: Outside Major Department3Lower or Upper Division Elective4
 14 15
Fourth Year
FallUnitsSpringUnits
Concentration 1 of 44Concentration 3 of 44
Concentration 2 of 44Concentration 4 of 44
Lower or Upper Division Elective4Lower or Upper Division Elective3
Lower or Upper Division Elective3Lower or Upper Division Elective3
 15 14
Total Units: 122

Notes

  • 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 adviser 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 HONORS program in 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Skills

  1. Language Skills
    • Acquire competency in a foreign language.
    • Participate in the education abroad program, if possible.
  2. 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.

Courses

Political Economy

Faculty and Instructors

+ Indicates this faculty member is the recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award.

Faculty

+ Maximilian Auffhammer, Professor. Climate change, econometrics, air pollution, environmental economics, energy economics.
Research Profile

Stephanie Ballenger, Lecturer.
Research Profile

David Beecher, Lecturer.
Research Profile

Beverly Kay Crawford, Professor Emeritus.

J. Bradford Delong, Professor. Economics, globalization, economic growth, convergence, economics of post WWII Europe.
Research Profile

+ Khalid Kadir, Lecturer. Global Poverty & Practice Minor, International & Area Studies.
Research Profile

Alan Karras, Associate Director and Senior Lecturer.
Research Profile

Lanchih Po, Associate Adjunct Professor.
Research Profile

Daniel Sargent, Associate Professor. American history, International History, Contemporary History.
Research Profile

Lecturers

Clare Talwalker, Lecturer. Qualitative methods, global poverty action, human rights, South Asia and economic anthropology.
Research Profile

Contact Information

International and Area Studies Teaching Program

101 Stephens Hall

Phone: 510-642-4466

Fax: 510-642-9850

iastp@berkeley.edu

Visit Program Website

Associate Professor, History, Chair, Political Economy

Daniel Sargent

2215 Dwinelle Hall

Phone: 510-473-6461

daniel.sargent@berkeley.edu

Associate Director

Alan Karras

123 Stephens Hall

Phone: 510-643-3185

karras@berkeley.edu

Lead Academic Adviser

Ethan Savage

101 Stephens Hall

Phone: 510-643-4156

ethansavage@berkeley.edu

Undergraduate Academic Adviser

Nithya Raghunathan

101 Stephens Hall

Phone: 510-643-7282

nraghunathan@berkeley.edu

Undergraduate Academic Adviser, Graduate Student Affairs Officer

Dreux Montgomery

101 Stephens Hall

Phone: 510-643-4157

dmontgom@berkeley.edu

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