Course 2022-2023 a.y.


Department of Social and Political Sciences

Course taught in English
Go to class group/s: 31
DES-ESS (6 credits - II sem. - OBS  |  SECS-P/07)
Course Director:

Classes: 31 (II sem.)

Suggested background knowledge

Module I (History of Economic Thought): no prior knowledge is required. However, to take full advantage of the references that are made to current economic theory, it is useful to have taken a basic course in the principles of economics. Module II (Public Policy and Administration): none.

Mission & Content Summary


Module I (History of Economic Thought): this module aims at putting economic theory in historical perspective, by showing the variety of conceptual and interpretative frameworks through which major authors have approached basic economic issues: the functioning of the market, its liaison dangereuse with the State, the distinctive features of the capitalist system, the obstinate recurrence of crises, the conflictual relationship between enterprise and labor, the elusive bond between finance and business. Module II (Public Policy and Administration): while most countries are progressively embracing the liberal democratic model, the way their states and public administration are organized and their policies emerge and evolve may vary importantly. This, we know, might make the difference for how citizens are governed and for the quality of the public services they receive. The module “Public Policy and Administration” aims at familiarizing students with the repertoire of current models for organizing the state and for understanding the process of policy-making.


Module I (History of Economic Thought): the course builds on a direct confrontation with selected texts of major economists, with the purpose of highlighting the explicit and implicit assumptions characterizing their peculiar approach. Preliminary reading of the texts and active discussion in class is strongly encouraged.The attention is necessarily focused on a limited number of authors, whose contributions represent significant turning points in the history of economic ideas.

  • Adam Smith, the theory of moral sentiments and the wealth of nations.
  • David Ricardo, the principles of political economy.
  • Thomas Robert Malthus, the paradox of thrift and the crisis of overproduction.
  • Karl Marx, the intrinsically revolutionary character of capital accumulation.
  • John Maynard Keynes, poverty in plenty and the need for monetary reform.
  • Friedrich August von Hayek, the road to serfdom and the denationalization of money.

Module II (Public Policy and Administration): the course is organised in two parts.

  1. The first part discusses how different disciplines and theoretical perspectives have conceptualized the state and the instruments for organizing it in order to make it work for the collective good.
  2. In the second part, the course deals with one of the main functions of the state: the generation of public policies (i.e., policy-making). The lectures explore how we understand the processes of decision-making and of public policies’ creation. It draws from models of bounded rationality and incrementalism, reaching out to the most recent developments in behavioural public policy, informed by studies in psychology.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)


At the end of the course student will be able to...

Module I (History of Economic Thought):

  • Define basic economic concepts (such as value, wealth, capital, money) in the light of the writings of major authors.
  • Identify the assumptions on which certain theories or arguments are based.
  • Recognize the paternity of received economic concepts and ideas.
  • Illustrate the line of reasoning through which given authors reach their conclusions.

Module II (Public Policy and Administration):

  • Identify the main models for organizing the state and the correspondent instruments.
  • Identify the main factors determining the policy-making process and the evolution of public policies in the long-run.
  • Discuss the main theoretical foundations underlying models of the state and of the policy-making process.


At the end of the course student will be able to...

Module I (History of Economic Thought):

  • Interpret original writings of classical economists.
  • Compare the position of different authors on fundamental issues.
  • Connect economic arguments with previous formulations of similar concept.

Module II (Public Policy and Administration):

  • Critically assess the effectiveness of different models of the state.
  • Analyze policy cycles and explain main contributing factors.
  • Critically analyze scholarly papers.

Teaching methods

  • Face-to-face lectures
  • Case studies /Incidents (traditional, online)
  • Individual assignments


  1. Module I (History of Economic Thought). The learning experience of this course consists essentially in the direct confrontation with the original writings of major economists. A brief introduction to each author is provided, following the traditional face-to-face approach, only to recall the historical context in which they developed their ideas. Most of the time, however, is dedicated to read and discuss in class selected readings by the authors. Students are strongly encouraged to participate in interpreting and commenting the texts.
  2. Module II (Public Policy and Administration). This part is held in a blended learning format. Online lectures provide knowledge about the theory and practice of public admnistration, about models of state organization, theoretical approaches and historical examples. Interactive in-class sessions allow to apply and deepen the new knowledge in discussions and case studies. Students are encoraged to participate actively in the discussions. Finally, a guest speaker will provide complementary perspectives.

Assessment methods

  Continuous assessment Partial exams General exam
  • Written individual exam (traditional/online)
  • Individual assignment (report, exercise, presentation, project work etc.)


  1. History of Economic Thought: written exam with open-ended questions. Typical questions involve the interpretation of a text from one of the economists discussed in class, the illustration of how the same topic is addressed by different authors, or the comparison between different authors in relation to a specific aspect or issue.
  2. Public Policy & Administration: Written exam with miltiple-choice and open-ended questions to test both basic knowledge of the course material, the understanding of key concepts discussed in class, and the ability to connect topics and argumentations.

Teaching materials


  1. Module I (History of Economic Thought). All compulsory readings are provided on Bboard.
  2. Module II (Public Policy and Administration). All compulsory readings are provided on Bboard.
Last change 13/12/2022 14:32