What follows is the webpage as it appeared in the recent past — only the verb tenses have been changed to reflect how all of this is now past history. At some point I will reorganize the whole thing to take into account how things have changed since I retired.
In as much as I was hired in 1976 to teach Marxism — as a result of some three years of graduate student struggle — that was mostly what I did at the graduate level. For over 20 years each Fall I taught an introductory course (Eco 387L) on Marxist theory based on the three volumes of Karl Marx's Capital. This course was designed to allow graduate students to study basic Marxist theory through the original writings. Over time, the composition of faculty and of the students they accept into the graduate program changed: the post-WWII hegemony of institutionalism was replaced in the 1970s by that of neoclassical economics, and then in the 1980s and 1990s that hegemony was in turn replaced by a neoliberal one. As a result, this course was offered only irregularly according to the demand from graduate students both inside and outside the department. Similarly, for those first 20 years, each Spring I taught one of three different courses in which basic Marxist theory was applied to different issues: 1) Marxist Crisis Theory, in which we examined the history of Marxist debates over the nature of the business cycle and economic crisis in capitalist society, 2) Marxist Theories of Socialism and Communism, in which we read the classics from Marx through Lenin as well as contemporary Marxists with a focus on the history of the Soviet Union, and 3) Autonomist Marxism , in which we read texts from the history of Marxism whose authors have emphasized the autonomy of working class action — autonomy from capital, from political parties and trade unions and from other sectors of the class. As with the introductory graduate course, those courses came to be offered only when five or more graduate students requested them.
At the undergraduate level, I continued to teach Marxism in the form of an introductory course each Fall (Eco 357k). That course was also based on Capital, but we only read volume I of that multivolume text. We also read some novels that put flesh on Marx's sometimes terse theoretical prose and I prepared a study guide to volume I which includes chapter-by-chapter outlines, commentary and a variety of song lyrics, cartoons, excerpts from literature, film suggestions and recommended further reading. Student comments on this course Fall 1998, Fall 1999, Fall 2001, Fall 2002, Fall 2004, Fall 2007, Fall 2009 .
Beginning in the Spring of 2004, I offered an upper division, undergraduate course on The Political Economy of Education (Eco 330T). This course was the outgrowth of an ad hoc course organized with a group of activist students in the Fall of 2003 and was designed to provide all students with an oppportunity to study the political economy of the situation in which they have been working for most of their lives. The course covered a range of issues, from fundamental questions about the philosophy of education through some of the history of education in the United States and internationally to contemporary conflicts over issues such as racism, gender discrimination, the privatization of schooling, rising tuition, speed-up and stretch-out. Student comments on this course: Spring 2005, Spring 2008
Beginning in the Fall of 2001, as a result of the retirement of Dan Morgan who had previously taught the material, I took up the teaching of an undergraduate course on the History of Economic Thought (Eco 368). That course provided background and perspective on contemporary mainstream economics and its critique. In as much as the dominant mainstream paradigm in this period is "neoliberal" economics, the course paid particular attention to its roots in the "liberal" or "classical" economics of the 19th Century as well as its critics and the post-WWII paradigm it increasingly replaced beginning in the 1970s and 1980s: the neoclassical-Keynesian synthesis. Virtually all of the material for this course remains available online. Student comments on this course Fall 2001, Fall 2002, Fall 2004 .
Also at the undergraduate level, each Spring I taught an upper-division course that surveyed the international crises of the previous 40 years. That course, called Political Economy of International Crisis (Eco 357L) was designed to provide students a chance to learn something about some of the more critical international issues of our time, both one-by-one and in relation to each other. The course was organized around eight sections, each of which dealt with a specific crisis area: 1) the rise and fall of the keynesian state, 2) the crisis in foreign policy making and diplomacy, 3) international monetary crises, 4) international food crises, 5) international energy crises, 6) the international debt crisis, 7) immigration crises and 8) international ecological crises. A selection of readings was made available for each of these subjects and class lectures were devoted to discussing both the issue at hand and its connections with the other issues. The material was updated from year to year to keep it current. Student comments on this course: 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2010.
Finally, I also taught introductory economics, usually macroeconomics (Eco 304L),. For this purpose I sometimes used both a standard textbook, or chapters from a textbook, and a series of essays on related subjects that I prepared over the years. The approach in these courses was to understand not only the basic theory but also the political economy of that theory, i.e., how it has developed within the changing historical context of social conflict. Thus we looked at the rise of Keynesian theory in response to the crisis of the Great Depression, its elaboration in the Post World War II period, its crisis in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the subsequent debates among a variety of theoretical and policy perspectives including monetarism, supply-side economics, new classical economics, neo-Keynesianism and so on. Student comments on this course: Fall 2000, Spring 2001
Before graduate program requirements, including mathematics requirements, were increased to the point where only those planning on doing contemporary mainstream neoliberal theory would put up with it, I used to to supervise graduate student research for M.A. theses and Ph.D dissertations. Those included projects as diverse as Marx's theory of money, 18th Century trade and class struggle, peasant struggles in Mexico, grassroots reorganization of urban space, and so on. Some titles of completed theses and dissertations can be found here.
The first line of research began with my dissertation on the historical origins of the Post-World War II Green Revolution strategies of American foreign aid —aimed at staving off revolution by increasing food production— and continued with work on the political economy of hunger and technological change. Other published work on mainstream theory has included the critique of supply-side economics and a class analysis of the international debt crisis in the 1980s.
The second line of work developed in response to my dissatisfaction with existing Marxist theory and the return of economic crisis in the early 1970s. Reinterpretation of the labor theory of value and of Marxist theories of crisis led me to the identification and study of what I call the tradition of autonomist Marxism --those moments of Marxism which have centered the self-activity of the working class (broadly defined) as the driving force of capitalist development and crisis. The large body of materials assembled in this study has been organized and is made available to fellow researchers as the Texas Archives of Autonomist Marxism.
My third line of research —on social conflicts— intersects with the first two, both in the study of agrarian antagonisms and of class conflicts that give rise to crises. At the same time, however, I have also focused on the positive projects of self-activity and self-determination which drive beyond capitalism. At the theoretical level this involves the elaboration of the concept of self-valorization. At the empirical level, it involves the study of various social struggles such as those of the urban and rural poor in Mexico, and the use of computer networks to break the isolation of such conflicts by connecting them to others. Recently, my focus in such research has been on the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico and its circulation and ramifications not only throughout Mexico but in the world as a whole.
As an undergraduate at Antioch College (1962-67), involvement in the Civil Rights Movement (local integration struggles) reoriented me on a path that would lead out of biochemical classes and laboratories and into social science courses and grassroots politics.
For a year and a half I worked and studied in France (1964-65), mostly at L'Universite de Montpellier. Although I spent most of my time mountain climbing and reading Corneille, I did spend some time helping the Left Student organization (UNEF) deal with attacks from their right-wing counterpart (FEN). I also began the long process of trying to find an answer to the question posed to me by Vietnamese students at Montpellier: "What is your American government doing in our country?"
While a graduate student at Stanford University (1967-71), I was involved in the anti-war movement and the efforts to change the policies that were responsible for so much bloodshed. I continued my study of the development of American foreign policy, focusing on Southeast Asia and on rural development. Study of the role of Stanford University and the Stanford Research Institute in the development and prosecution of the war led to the study of the social-engineering aspects of policy including the propagation of the Green Revolution, i.e., the introduction of new, high-yielding varieties of rice to undercut peasant support for revolution. It was the inability of mainstream economics to address the political economy of this technological change which led me to Marxist theory. It was the inability of traditional Marxist theory to see beyond exploitation to the struggles of the Vietnamese peasants that led me to work on the reinterpretation of that theory. As part of the effort to change policy, we students also fought for and achieved changes in the University curriculum, including the creation of space for courses in radical political economics, Black Studies, and so on. We also fought for the elimination of counterinsurgency research at the Stanford Research Institute —which responded by severing its ties to the University.
As an assistant professor at the Universite de Sherbrooke in Quebec, Canada, (1971-74) I worked on finishing my dissertation and studied the development of French Canadian nationalism and the question of regional and ethnic autonomy.
As an assistant professor at the New School for Social Research in New York City (1974-76), I continued my work on the reinterpretation of Marxist theory while becoming involved in resistance to the policies designed to solve the New York City fiscal crisis —policies which, it turned out, anticipated those of the international debt crisis of the 1980s and 1990s.
I came to teach at the University of Texas in 1976 in response to the requests of graduate students in the departments of economics and government. They were fighting to open space within the university for courses and studies which met their own needs —just as I and others had done at Stanford. The courses I have described above were developed precisely to meet such needs. Within the context of an educational system designed primarily to meet the needs of the state (say for foreign area expertise) and of corporations (say for geological research to facilitate the expansion of their mining profits), teaching critical social theory is a kind of activism. The struggle to shape education for the people rather than for the powers-that-be is of growing importance as the emergence of the so-called informational society puts a premium on the labor power of those who work with their minds rather than with their muscles alone.
Beyond this kind of activism within the University, I have also been involved with struggles that have originated outside of it. For example, soon after I came to Texas, I was recruited by Chicano students to provide economic advice to the union of cannery workers in Crystal City, Texas. Subsequently, I was also involved in the struggles around immigration policy reform beginning with the resistance organized by La Raza to the Carter Plan for more restrictive immmigration policies. In the mid-1980s, I discovered the grassroots movements in Mexico and provided analysis and evaluation to local organizers in Tepito, Mexico City while studying the character and originality of their approach to by-passing development in favor of self-activity.
Most recently, since early 1994, I have been involved in international work around the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas. That work has involved research, writing and publishing on the situation there, including the introduction for the book Zapatistas! Documents of the New Mexican Revolution, published on the internet and in hardcopy book form, the development of Chiapas95, an internet list for the redistribution of information about developments in Chiapas and Mexico, participation in cyberspace discussion, and in the work of Accion Zapatista, a local solidarity group.
At various points in time I have been engaged in debates in cyberspace. A few of these exchanges are substantive enough to be of interest. I have made some undedited collections of the postings and am making them available for any who might be interested.