Carleton PADM5115 Introduction to State and Society

PADM5115Course description

The course explores the evolving relationship between the state, society and economy. It begins by considering the main 18th, 19th and early 20th century theorists who addressed this relationship, Adam Smith, Marx, Weber and Polanyi, whose ideas and arguments continue to influence contemporary social theorists. It then goes on to examine critically various perspectives on the development of the state, democracy, and the Keynesian welfare state in the West. The last section of the course takes up debates on the contemporary relationship between the state, society and economy. Particular emphasis is given to debates regarding the changes in the nature of the global economy, the role and capacities of the nation-state and relations between states as these pertain to the prospects for addressing contemporary challenges.

The objectives of the course are to:

  • Introduce students to some of the key thinkers about the relationship between the state, economy, and society
  • Help students to identify how these thinkers have influenced contemporary debates about the relationship between the state, economy, and society
  • Introduce students to debates about how both the state and society, and the relationship between them, have changed, particularly between the Keynesian and neoliberal periods


Lisa Mills (Fall 2012)


At (accessed 18 March 2013) and uploaded syllabus at Carleton_PADM5115 _Introduction _to_State_and_Society_Lisa_Mills_2012.pdf.

Commentary by the Atlas editors

The PM Atlas editors have identified four major subject areas that, taken together, comprise the common core of MPA/MPP education as it is taught in the programs that we are analyzing. By this, we mean that these subjects are explicitly addressed and covered in-depth by at least one core, required course within each program. For example, every well-respected MPP/MPA program requires students to take at least one course on research methods, and at least one course on the relationship between economic theory and public policy.

While the programs that we are studying share a common “core” that can be described as teaching the absolute essentials of the discipline, some of the programs also have additional, required courses that students must take to complete their degree. For example, the University of Toronto requires students to take a course in Public Management Ethics, whereas Carleton’s program does not.

This course, “Introduction to State and Society” is another example of a course that is required by one program (in this case Carleton) that does not have an equivalent in each of the other programs that we are considering. Specifically, there is no close equivalent in the University of Toronto’s core curriculum. However, this course does have a close equivalent within the list of required courses at the HKS, which is entitled “DPI201 The Responsibilities of Public Action.” This course introduces students to the major ideological and philosophical disputes that underlie many contemporary public policy debates, exposing students to the competing “big ideas” about the appropriate role of government in society and the proper relationship between individuals and the state. Students in this course learn about the ideological disputes between Keynesians and neo-liberals, which provides them with a deeper understanding of the philosophical roots of many contemporary disagreements between “conservatives” and “liberals” about how governments should respond to different policy problems.

The presence of this course in the required curriculum at Carleton, and the absence of a similar course at the University of Toronto challenge us to consider whether an introduction to the great intramural ideological disputes within the broader liberal-democratic tradition is an essential component of MPP/MPA learning. Put another way, this difference between the two curriculums implicitly asks us whether students must explicitly study the intellectual foundations of the ideologies that animate contemporary political movements.

Harvard’s HKS curriculum does include a somewhat similar course entitled “The Responsibilities of Public Action.” The course description states that the course “asks two questions,” the first of which is “what should governments do.” This element of the course considers some of the same issues as PADM5115, asking students to consider “public principles that guide good, just and legitimate public policy.” The second “question” asked by the instructors of the HKS course is “what should political actors do?” The material that informs this question covers similar material to what is addressed in the U of T’s course on public management ethics.

It should, however, be noted that U of T’s MPP program does not entirely neglect these issues within its core curriculum. For example, the course entitled “The Social Context of Policymaking” introduces students to important “ideological” disputes. Students learn about the “varieties of capitalism” concept, which enhances their knowledge of the ideological foundations of some current policy disputes. Toronto’s Governance and Institutions course also introduces students to Max Weber, and his philosophical exploration of the nature of bureaucracy. Nonetheless, there is no close equivalent to PADM5115, with a required reading list focused on the foundational texts of different political ideologies including the works of Adam Smith, Karl Marx and Max Weber.

It is also worth nothing that Toronto MPP students who are especially interested in these issues can study them in electives offered by the Political Science and Philosophy departments. This fits a general pattern that holds in almost all situations such as this one, where a core course in one program lacks a close equivalent in another. This material is never entirely “neglected” by the other school, rather it is covered in elective courses, and/or certain major themes from the course in question are addressed in other required courses.

This course includes the following teaching topics. Given the absence of a close equivalent course at the University of Toronto, it is worthwhile to consider the extent to which these individual topics are covered within other U of T courses and which elements of this material should be considered essential knowledge for MPP/MPA candidates. Particularly important authors are noted in brackets after the topic name.

  1. Theoretical Perspectives and Historical Background on the Development of Capitalism
  2. Classical Political Economy, the Enlightenment and Feminist Response (Heilbroner, Amartya Sen)
  3. Marx and the Development of Capitalism (Marx and Engels)
  4. Rationalization and Bureaucracy (Max Weber)
  5. Polanyi and Hayek (Polanyi and Hayek)
  6. The State
  7. Democracy
  8. The Keynesian Response and the Welfare State (Keynes)
  9. The Rise of Neo-liberalism and Contemporary Challenges
  10. The Financial Crisis
  11. Gender, Globalization and care work

Page created by: Ben Eisen on 18 March 2013, and edited for new Atlas by Ian Clark on 9 December 2015.