A general outline of the history of economic thought

Ludwig List
Arts and Society, Cross-Disciplinary Strategies
2021W, scientific seminar (SEW), 4.0 ECTS, 2.0 semester hours, course number S03994


// In case of another lockdown the classes will be held via Zoom, the students will be informed with the details via mail.


This module represents part one of the course on the history of economic thought. It tries to offer a problem-oriented introduction into the history of economic thought and its historical context from a political economy perspective. Apart from presenting various basic economic concepts, several goals, instruments and fundamental debates in economic theory and policy will be explained and discussed.

The focus of this course lies in

  • A critical analysis of traditional goals of economic policy
  • Grand debates in economic theories
  • How does economic theory and society influence each other?
  • A basic overview of several different economic paradigms


This course’s goal is to

  • Create awareness of the need for more engagement with economic history and economic thought in general

After finishing the course, the students should be able to

  • Assess problems of economic policy using social and economic criteria
  • Differentiate between different points of view regarding economic theory and policy
  • Use a wider array of arguments for future debates.


The texts are given out with guiding questions to make the reading easier. Examples include ancient Greek philosophy, Classical Political Economy (John Stuart Mill, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, etc.) or modern economic thought (Keynesian Economics, Monetarism, etc.). To prepare themselves, the students read one or several text passages or chapters of classics in the history of economic thought. Furthermore, they organise in groups in order to prepare mandatory literature and provide valuable inputs for the following debate. After a discussion of the presented texts, the teacher gives an introduction to the texts that the students are supposed to read during the next session.

Additionally, students are expected to hand in short reflections of the readings prior to class. These summaries need to include 2-3 questions regarding text passages that the students did not understand as well as 2-3 reflections that emerged during the reading of the texts.

At the beginning of the lecture, the lecturer introduces the students to specific topics and gives a short summary of important persons in the history of economic thought with emphasis on the respective historical context.

In general, the course design provides space for discussion with the goal of comparing different points of view in political economy. Finally, it should motivate the students to elaborate proper arguments on their own and to gain experiences in the presentation of content and their own opinions.

Students from other faculties or universities will receive a place on the course subject to room capacities.

Examination Modalities

Grades are given based on the students’ active participation as well as their presentation in groups. Participation consists of the students’ reflections (40 %), participation in class (30 %) and a group presentation of one set of texts (30 %). As an alternative, class participation points may be achieved via the submission of summaries discussing the content of the class and the texts discussed.


Students from other departments or universities will be given a place on the course subject to room capacities



A proper discussion and learning process, especially in a guided reading, needs the students to read the texts alone BEFORE class. It is not expected that the students grasp every aspects of the texts (that’s what university teachers are there for, after all). It is emphasised, however, that while it is the teacher’s duty to prepare and lecture the students, it is the student’s responsibility to come to class prepared and having read the mandatory literature.


Recommended Literature (not needed for successfully finishing the course)

Allen, R. C. (2011). Global Economic History: A Very Short Introduction (1 edition). Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.

Blaug, M. (1997). Economic Theory in Retrospect (5 edition). Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Hobsbawm, E. (1989). The Age of Empire: 1875-1914 (Reprint edition). New York: Vintage.

Hobsbawm, E. (1996). The Age of Extremes: A History of the World, 1914-1991 (1st edition). New York: Vintage.

Hobsbawm, E. (2000). The Age of Capital, 1848-75. London: Orion Pub Co.

Kurz, H. D. (2017). Geschichte des ökonomischen Denkens (2nd ed.). München: C.H.Beck.

Robbins, L. (2000). A History of Economic Thought: The LSE Lectures (New Ed edition). Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Key Words

history of economic thought, economics, political economy


18 October 2021, 17:15–19:45 KUG Lecture Room PSK 147
29 October 2021, 17:15–19:45 Seminar Room 24
05 November 2021, 17:15–18:15 Seminar Room 34
19 November 2021, 17:15–19:45 Seminar Room 34
26 November 2021, 17:15–19:45 Seminar Room 34
03 December 2021, 17:15–19:45 Seminar Room 34
10 December 2021, 17:15–19:45 Seminar Room 34
17 December 2021, 17:15–19:45 Seminar Room 34
14 January 2022, 17:15–19:45, "class will be held online (see mail)"
21 January 2022, 17:15–19:45, "class will be held online (see mail)"

Course Enrolment

From 01 September 2021, 11:45 to 31 October 2021, 23:55
Via online registration

co-registration: possible

Cross-Disciplinary Strategies (Master): Study Areas: Study Area 3: Economics and Politics

Cross-Disciplinary Strategies (Bachelor): Economy and Politics: Deepening / Application

Individual courses: possible