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Liberal Arts & Social Sciences
2021/2022 Year Barcelona

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Course Overview


Comparative Economic Systems

Comparative Economic Systems Course Overview


CEA Partner Institution: CEA Barcelona Center
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Primary Subject Area: Economics
Other Subject Area: Political Science, Sociology
Instruction in: English
Course Code: ECN322
Course Details: Level 300
Recommended Semester Credits: 3
Contact Hours: 45
Prerequisites: None required but basic principles in Economics would be helpful


After a process that started a few centuries ago, capitalism has become the dominant socio-economic system in the world. For this reason, understanding the rules and mechanisms upon which capitalism is based has become absolutely indispensable for comprehending today's world and one's own role in it. This course describes the pillars and mechanisms upon which capitalism functions. This is done by first laying the theoretical grounds of capitalism and then undertaking an applied analysis of this socio-economic system with reference to its strengths and shortcomings, as well as to the role of the economic agents that make it function as it does: international organizations, nation-states, multinational companies and civil society.

The logical consequence and the present phase of capitalism is globalization, a "buzzword" that admits different definitions and interpretations. What is it that becomes global? Is globalization mainly an economic phenomenon? To which possible scenarios does it lead? In the second quarter of the course globalization is defined and described from a multidisciplinary point of view, with emphasis on the different pace at which it takes place depending on the country and the dimension (economic, technological, cultural, environmental, political or demographic) to which we refer. As with capitalism, globalization is also analyzed from a critical perspective, that is, pointing out both the positive and negative effects that it brings about and which can be supported with empirical evidence.

Following a tradition dating back to Aristotle, the course then undertakes the question of how to measure human "progress" and of whether wealth accumulation and economic growth should be means or ends in themselves, the latter being in coherence with the logic of capitalism. For the purpose of this appraisal, the concept of "human development" is used, as defined by the United Nations Development Program. Alternative ways to measure "progress" and which go beyond the merely quantitative approach of GDP are then analyzed and used to provide a statistical description of today's state of the world.

The last part of the course is devoted to analyzing and discussing some proposals (or alternative economic arrangements) that have been thought out and brought forward in the last few years by members of civil society, whether they are academicians, politicians, independent associations, etc. The common purpose of all these proposals is to foster sustainability in the broadest sense of the term ("the capacity to continue") and thus contributing to overcome, from within the capitalist system, today's most severe problems facing humanity, such as poverty, environmental degradation, etc.

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