Political Economy

University of California, Berkeley

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 - Political Economy is a “High-Demand Major” 

Political Economy is a “High-Demand Major” with two different sets of policies predicated upon when a student was admitted to UC Berkeley and whether they entered as a first-year or transfer student.

I Students Admitted to UC Berkeley in Fall 2023 & After as a First-Year Admit must follow the policies for declaring a high-demand major as explained on this website: https://ls.berkeley.edu/ls-high-demand-majors-first-year-students. 

II - All other 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 GLOBAL 45 or POLECON C45  with a grade of B- or higher on the first attempt. Students who repeat GLOBAL 45 or POLECON C45  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 courses or the equivalent at the time of declaring the major.
  6. Complete the online major declaration workshop (link found on the Political Economy website).
  7. Complete the major application found on the Political Economy website.

Honors Program

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 UCB coursework. All upper-division major courses will be used to calculate the major GPA. A student MUST have completed and received a grade for at least FOUR upper-division major courses to be considered for the Honors Program. 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.

Minor Program

Political Economy (PE) offers a five-course minor that is open to all undergraduates except PE majors. In addition to the POLECON 100 and POLECON 101 courses, students must choose a concentration topic and take three courses aligned with that topic. A list of pre-approved concentration courses and the application to declare the minor can be found on the Political Economy Minor Webpage. Students must declare the minor at least one semester before their expected graduation term. Students must email the completed and signed Completion of L&S Minor Form to the PE minor advisor in their final semester of undergraduate work.

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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 a letter grade. (The only exceptions to this rule are language courses. All language classes, including the fourth semester, may be taken for a letter grade or Pass/No Pass.)
  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.

Must have a cumulative UC Berkeley grade point average (GPA) of 2.7 or higher.

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

Select one of the following:
POLECON C45Survey of World History 14
GLOBAL 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
STAT W21Introductory 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 their 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. 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.
  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 100AMicroeconomics4
ECON 101AMicroeconomics (Math Intensive)4
ENVECON 100Intermediate Microeconomics with Applications to Sustainability4
UGBA 101AMicroeconomic Analysis for Business Decisions3
POLECON 106Intermediate Microeconomic Theory4
Intermediate Macroeconomics4
Select one of the following:
ECON 100BMacroeconomics4
ECON 101BMacroeconomics (Math Intensive)4
UGBA 101BMacroeconomic Analysis for Business Decisions3
POLECON 107Intermediate Macroeconomic Theory4
Historical Context3-4
Select one of the following:
ECON 115The World Economy in the Twentieth Century4
ECON 134Macroeconomic Policy from the Great Depression to Today4
ECON 135Economic Growth in Historical Perspective4
HISTORY 133AThe History of American Capitalism4
HISTORY 160The International Economy of the 20th Century4
HISTORY 162BWar and Peace: International Relations since 19144
POLECON 160Political Economy in Historical Context4
UGBA C172History of American Business3
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). 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.


POLECON 100 must be taken before POLECON 101.


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, they are upper-division, at least three semester units, and are taken for a letter grade. A syllabus in English must be submitted to the PE advisor for faculty review.

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), POLECON C45POLECON 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 discuss the concentration topic, students must schedule an appointment with a PE advisor. At the meeting, the student must provide a brief explanation about how each course relates to the proposed concentration topic. Students may be asked to provide syllabi for certain courses.

Any subsequent changes to already approved concentration topics and/or courses must be submitted to a PE advisor for approval by the Political Economy Faculty Committee prior to the concentration being changed.

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.

General Guidelines

  1. All minors must be declared before the first day of classes in your Expected Graduation Term (EGT). For summer graduates, minors must be declared prior to the first day of Summer Session A. 

  2. All upper-division courses must be taken for a letter grade. 

  3. A minimum of three of the upper-division courses taken to fulfill the minor requirements must be completed at UC Berkeley.

  4. A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 is required in the upper-division courses to fulfill the minor requirements.

  5. Courses used to fulfill the minor requirements may be applied toward the Seven-Course Breadth requirement for Letters & Science students.

  6. No more than one upper division course may be used to simultaneously fulfill requirements for a student's major and minor programs.

  7. All minor requirements must be completed prior to the last day of finals during the semester in which the student plans to graduate. If students cannot finish all courses required for the minor by that time, they should see a College of Letters & Science adviser.

  8. 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 towards 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;
  • Have met with a PE advisor;
  • Are not in their final semester of undergraduate work.

Requirements for the Political Economy Minor

  1. To declare a minor, submit the PE Minor Application found on the PE Minor webpage.
  2. All courses towards the minor must be upper division, at least three-semester units, and taken for a letter grade.
  3. No more than two courses may be taken from the same department.
  4. All transfer courses (e.g. Study Abroad) must be approved by a Political Economy minor advisor.
  5. POLECON 197, 198, and 199 cannot be used to fulfill minor requirements
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 concentration topics listed below: 

  1. Globalization

  2. Poverty, Inequality, and Policy

  3. Science, Technology, and Economic Development

Visit the PE Minor webpage for a list of pre-approved courses for the minor.

College Requirements

Undergraduate students must fulfill the following requirements in addition to those required by their major program.

For a detailed lists of L&S requirements, please see Overview tab to the right in this guide or visit the L&S Degree Requirements webpage. 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 and must be taken for a letter grade. 

American History and American Institutions

The American History and American Institutions requirements are based on the principle that all U.S. residents who have 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 campus requirement 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 are plentiful and 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/data science. The requirement may be satisfied by exam or by taking an approved course taken for a letter grade.

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 taken for a letter grade.

Reading and Composition

In order to provide a solid foundation in reading, writing, and critical thinking the College of Letters and Science requires two semesters of lower division work in composition in sequence. Students must complete parts A & B reading and composition courses in sequential order by the end of their fourth semester for a letter grade.

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 at Cal for four years, or two years for transfer students. In general, there is no need to be concerned about this requirement, unless you graduate early, 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 L&S College 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 B.A. 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
STAT 2, C8, 20, 21, or W214ECON 1 or 2 (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
POLECON 1074L&S Breadth3
Language 3 of 4 (International Studies Breadth)5American Cultures Requirement4
Lower Division Elective3Language 4 of 45
 16 16
Third Year
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
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


  • 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

  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.


  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.

Major Map

Major maps are experience maps that help undergraduates plan their Berkeley journey based on intended major or field of interest. Featuring student opportunities and resources from your college and department as well as across campus, each map includes curated suggestions for planning your studies, engaging outside the classroom, and pursuing your career goals in a timeline format.

Use the major map below to explore potential paths and design your own unique undergraduate experience:

View the Political Economy Major Map.


Political Economy

Contact Information

Interdisciplinary Social Science Programs

101 Stephens Hall

Phone: 510-642-4466

Fax: 510-642-9850


Visit Program Website

Professor, Political Economy and Political Science, Director, Political Economy

Steven Vogel

768 Social Sciences


Associate Director

Alan Karras

123 Stephens Hall

Phone: 510-643-3185


Undergraduate Academic Advisor

Nithya Raghunathan

101 Stephens Hall


Undergraduate Academic Advisor, Graduate Student Affairs Officer

Dreux Montgomery

101 Stephens Hall


Undergraduate Academic Advisor

Alex Maurice

101 Stephens Hall


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