2012-13 Catalog

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Offering Description

Boom or Bust: Social Struggles of the 1930s


Fall 2012 quarter

Andrew Buchman music composition , Qi Chen business administration, accounting , Paul McMillin sociology, information studies , David Shaw international business, economics
Fields of Study
business and management, economics, media studies, music, political economy and sociology
Preparatory for studies or careers in
business, government, non-governmental organizations, and the arts.

During the 1930s, the capitalist world economy experienced a prolonged and severe economic depression. International trade fell by more than 50%. Unemployment in the U.S. rose to 25%. In this program, we'll explore the economic circumstances of the Great Depression, the social movements engendered and empowered in the U.S. during those years, and the music and theatre that those tough times inspired. These studies will shed light on our own era of economic crisis and increasingly radicalized political culture.

We intend to look at competing theories of booms and busts, crises and crashes. We’ll review basic concepts of classical economics that proved inadequate to the situation, and look at some new economic ideas (Berle and Means, Keynes, Coase) that the Great Depression helped spawn. We'll look at ecological disasters like the Dust Bowl, and grand technological experiments with vast environmental consequences like the Grand Coulee Dam. These stories offer cautionary lessons to our own times around issues of sustainability.

We'll examine political responses of the 1930s, including national initiatives, workers’ movements, Marxist critiques, and the rise of fascist and anti-fascist movements. Readings will include works by contemporary journalists, activists, revolutionaries, and documentarians who produced creative and insightful analyses of their age. We plan to trace the increasing influence of mass media and propaganda , and will investigate songs, films, shows, and photographs. Students will do close listening to pieces of music, analyzing them as one might a poem or painting. The music of Woody Guthrie and the photography of Dorothea Lange will be in the mix.

Students should expect to become well-informed about the economic and political developments of the 1930s. They should be prepared to draw conclusions about the causes of economic crisis and the political, social, and aesthetic responses to crisis, and defend those conclusions in vigorous discussions with their classmates. This program will also prepare students for the winter quarter program, Boom or Bust: The U.S. Economy, 2013 and Beyond .

Online Learning
Enhanced Online Learning
Greener Store
Offered During

Program Revisions

Date Revision
May 18th, 2012 This program is now all-level, open to Freshmen through Seniors.