Wall Street


This class uses the framework of political economy to study disruptions in the financial arena. We start with arguably the most disruptive innovation: money (which, amongst other things, makes the world go ‘round, cannot buy love, and is the root of all evil). Our discussion here focuses on the precursors to money (including debt), its creation, and the effects it has had on society. We then turn our attention to the topic of finance, and how it has shaped society. We provide a historical background of the development of financial practices as well as a description of the modern financial industry. Central to our analysis is a focus on the institutions (e.g. commercial banks, markets, central banks, regulatory agencies) that have developed to facilitate financial transactions.


With this historical context of money and finance, we turn to more recent developments – financialization, “fintech,” and financial crises. We study the proliferation of finance (i.e. the growth of the traditional financial sector, and the willingness of traditionally non-financial firms to engage in financial activities), the disruptions that occur when technology firms enter the financial industry, and what happens when it all goes wrong and crisis ensues. Special attention is paid to the regulatory and policy arenas, with an emphasis on central bank policy.