human ecology core course
wealth and inequality, distribution and dynamics
Instructor: Dave Feldman
Office: Second floor, Turrets Annex.
Phone: x249, 276-5284
Class mailing list: hecc_At_h0rnacekD0TcoaD0Tedu
I have several goals for this course. I want you to:
- Experience and participate in an introductory example of a
human ecological approach to a complex issue.
- Get to know College of the Atlantic and each other.
- Practice and improve analytic skills necessary for success at
- Learn some stuff about inequality, economics, poverty,
statistics, political philosophy, and so on.
- Have fun while working hard and challenging our ideas.
This interdisciplinary seminar is designed to provide students with
an introduction to human ecology. The focus of this year's class will
be the topic of wealth. We will take an interdisciplinary approach to
this topic, drawing upon the work of novelists, philosophers,
political theorists, economists, artists, and others. In so doing,
our aim is to provide a model for a human ecological approach to a
complex social phenomenon, and to give students experience in defining
and addressing a complex subject. An additional goal of this course
is to introduce students to critical reading, writing, and discussion
skills that are an essential ingredient for student success at College
of the Atlantic.
This particular seminar will center on three broad questions. First,
to what extent are resources and income distributed unevenly
throughout the world and in various countries and societies? What
would a fair distribution look like, and what different notions of
fairness are there? Second, do these inequalities matter? Why or why
not? And third, how do inequalities arise, why do they so often
persist, and how, if ever, can inequalities be ameliorated? We will
read selections from a number of current and classical political and
economic thinkers as we consider these questions. Throughout the
course we will encounter several different notions of "fairness" or
"equity" put forth by philosophers, economists, and mathematicians,
and will critically examine each. Additionally, one of the questions
that will emerge is the extent to which one can, or cannot, predict
large-scale phenomena such as income distribution or other patterns
based on knowledge of simple interactions or "rules of the game." We
shall see that the manner in which individual preferences lead to
societal outcomes is not always straightforward and intuitive, and
will discuss the implications of this observation.
Evaluation will be based on class discussion and participation,
several short papers, several problem sets, and a final paper or
presentation. Introductory. *HE* Lab fee $25.
You should procure copies of the following books:
There will also be many handouts and photocopied articles that I'll
distribute over the course of the term.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby.
- Barbara Ehrenreich. Nickel and Dimed: On (not) Getting by in
- Nadine Gordimer, The Pickup.
Your evaluation will be based on the following:
This class is offered only on a credit/no-credit basis. Exceptions
to this may only be granted by Ken Hill.
- Final project
- Participation in class discussion and activities
- Short papers
- Problem sets and other assignments
Policies and other Information
- The final version of this and related documents can be found
on the course web page,
- We may need to schedule an extra class or two during weeks 9
or 10 so we have enough time for the presentations.
- As I plan on often sending out homework assignments and other
information via email, it is important that you check your email
- If you want, we could set up a discussion board, blog, and/or
wiki for the class.
- There will be a final synthetic paper, project, and/or
presentation. We'll discuss the details of this in a week or two.
- In addition to the final project, there will be a few short
papers and a few problem sets.
- The particular topics and sets of readings we cover toward the
end of the course is flexible and will depend on student interest
- I expect you to attend class. If it is unavoidable for you to
miss a class, it's not a big deal, but please let me know in
advance if possible. Numerous absences may jeopardize your ability
to receive credit for the course.
- Academic misconduct -- cheating, plagiarizing, etc. -- is
bad. Most cases of academic misconduct will result in a judicial
hearing. Possible consequences range from failure of the assignment