Economics for Composition

If I had to put together an introductory crash course grad seminar for compositionists interested in economics, here’s what the reading list might look like. (I’m particularly indebted to Julie Graham’s excellent Rethinking Economy seminar for pointing me to the sources in sections 4 and 5.)

1. Background:

J. K. Gibson-Graham, “Economy.” In Bennett, Grossberg, and Morris, New Keywords.
Lester Thurow and Robert Heilbroner, Economics Explained.
Henry Hazlitt, Economics in One Lesson.
Optional, but very highly recommended: Robert Heilbroner, The Worldly Philosophers.

2. Fundamentals, part 1:

N. Gregory Mankiw, Principles of Economics second edition, Chapters 1-7, 10, 11, 13-15, 18-24, 27, 28, 31-34.

3. Fundamentals, part 2:

Excerpts from Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Democracy.
Excerpts from Karl Marx, Capital, volume 1.
Yanis Varoufakis, Foundations of Economics. Absolutely essential.

4. Application:

Stephen Gudeman, “Chapter 1: Community, Market, and Culture.” In The Anthropology of Economy.
Timothy Mitchell, “The Object of Development: America’s Egypt.” In Power of Development, Jonathan Crush, ed.
Arturo Escobar, “Chapter 2: The Problematization of Poverty: The Tale of Three Worlds and Development.” In Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World.
Duncan Ironmonger, “Counting Outputs, Capital Inputs and Caring Labor: Estimating Gross Household Product.” Feminist Economics 2.3 (1996): 37-64.

5. Alternatives:

J. K. Gibson-Graham, “The Economy,Stupid! Industrial Policy Discourse and the Body Economic.” In The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It).
Colin Williams. “A Critical Evaluation of the Commodification Thesis.” The Sociological Review 50.4 (2002): 525-542.
J. K. Gibson-Graham, “How do we get out of this capitalist place?” In The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It).
Fikret Adaman and Yahya M. Madra, “Theorizing the ‘Third Sphere’: A Critique of the Persistence of the ‘Economistic Fallacy.'” Journal of Economic Issues 36.4 (December 2002): 1045-1078.

6. Technology:

Carl Shapiro and Hal Varian, Information Rules Chapters 1 and 4.
Andrew Feenberg, Transforming Technology Chapter 1.
Yochai Benkler, “Coase’s Penguin, or Linux and the Nature of the Firm.”Yale Law Journal 112 (2002).
Nick Dyer-Witheford, Cyber-Marx Chapter 2.

7. Changes:

Lawrence Lessig, The Future of Ideas Chapter 1.
George Akerlof and Rachel Kranton, “Economics and Identity.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 115.3 (August 2000): 715-753.
Excerpts from Shoshana Zuboff and James Maxmin, The Support Economy.

8. Problems:

Excerpts from Edward Fullbrook, ed., A Guide to What’s Wrong with Economics.
Deirdre McCloskey, The Rhetoric of Economics.

9. Composition:

Arthur Coon, “An Economic X Marks the Spot.” College English (October 1947).
James Berlin, “Postmodernism, the College Curriculum, and English Studies.” Chapter 3 in Rhetorics, Poetics, and Cultures.
Kelly Ritter, “The Economics of Authorship: Online Paper Mills, Student Writers, and First-Year Composition.” CCC 56.4: 601-631.
Min-Zhan Lu, “An Essay on the Work of Composition: Composing English Against the Order of Fast Capitalism.” CCC 56.1 (September 2004).
Bruce Horner, “Work” and “Writing.” Chapters 1 and 6 in Terms of Work for Composition.

So those are the major divisions, but given a fifteen-week semester, what I’d likely do would be to put a reading from the literature of composition appropriate to each week’s economic topic with the economic readings. So probably Coon would go with section 2, one of Ohmann’s pieces with section 3, Ritter with section 6 or section 7, Lu with section 4 or section 5: you get the idea.

Economics for Composition

10 thoughts on “Economics for Composition

  • August 19, 2005 at 12:46 am

    I wish you would blog about your experiences in class.

  • August 21, 2005 at 6:27 pm

    I haven’t seen half (literally!) of this stuff before. Thanks for the references!

  • August 21, 2005 at 7:23 pm

    No prob, Jim. I should point out that I’m trying to give a fairly balanced perspective, a sense of the range of positions, hence the balancing of center-left economists like Heilbroner & Thurow with center-right economists like Hazlitt, and so on.

  • August 21, 2005 at 7:28 pm

    BTW I assume your recent comments in response on my blog were in response to my request above, and I do very much appreciate it. 🙂

  • August 21, 2005 at 7:43 pm

    Well, yeah, in some ways, Michelle — but there’s also the thing that my teaching semester doesn’t start until September 7, so I really don’t have much to blog about just now. And there are also my concerns about public representations of students, which I’ll probably write a longer post about as the start of the semester gets nearer, and as I get the class’s individual weblogs set up.

  • August 23, 2005 at 12:46 am

    I look forward to your thoughts about that as I have mixed feelings about blogging it; I’ve already deleted one post about students’ responses to books read, not because I felt that I disclosed anything inappropriate or in violation of privacy issues (beyond FERPA but just courtesy) but just in case a student happened to google me and find my blog, I would not want any comments in reflection by me in this context to be seen (even as a tenth of a tenth of a tenth of a possibility) by a student as any sort of condescension.

  • August 23, 2005 at 1:26 am

    Well, OK, Michelle, you expressed a wish, so I’ll express one too: you know you’re smart and passionate about this stuff, to the degree where I wish you’d propose a panel for Computers & Writing (in Texas next year) or for RSA (in Memphis). For starters, “Beyond FERPA” sounds like a fine panel title to me.

  • August 23, 2005 at 9:33 pm

    What?! Are you serious? Are you making fun of me?

  • August 23, 2005 at 11:17 pm

    No, I’m not making fun of you, dammit. You’ve got expertise on this stuff — privacy issues; the intersection of the public, the personal, the pedagogical — and a perspective people need to hear. I’d love to see you contribute to the present small but growing body of scholarship; partly because I hope I might be able to cite you in the future, but more because I see you composing a theory out of your practice rather than the vice-versa thing I’m trying to do, and I think that’s immensely valuable.

  • August 23, 2005 at 11:23 pm

    Well, I don’t know what to think. I guess I’ll think about it. I’ll look them both up and see if I need a sponsor or mentor to propose to either of these because I’m not affiliated with anyone on a permanent basis just now.

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