Student Comments


Eco 357k Introduction to Marxian Economics

Fall 1999

with a few, scattered responses from the professor

Great Class! Improvements: More interaction, enjoy your information, but it gets very boring when no one participates. I would have also liked homework assignments.

(Cleaver Comment: I agree, it's much better when people participate. As for homework. Well, I did that once; I gave out assignments every week. But it was a massive amount of work for the grader. I also discovered that students used "homework" as a exogenous pressure to do the work necessary for the class instead of using self-discipline --which is exactly what you are supposed to be learning at this level of education.)

Coming from Computer Science I am not accustomed to doing a lot of reading out of class, so I unfortunately didn't do all the reading required. However I was interested enough in the material that I got some of the suggested reading from the library. In fact, I did more studying on my own than reading from class. The material presented in class was extremely compelling. I would come home from class thinking really hard about everything that has been said because it made me look at new things in a whole new way. An understanding like this is useful for anyone who has to work for a living or who wants to go into business. Cleaver was enormously helpful during his office hours and greatly encouraged me to outside study and answered questions. I think I would have gotten more out of the course if I had been more strongly encouraged to do the reading; on the other hand, it was nice not being under pressure. One interesting aspect of the class was the application to Marxian analysis to modern problems like the fall in the Keynsian state, the WTO, Indonesia, etc. I would though liked a more in depth analysis of these things, and maybe handouts or tests over them, but I guess that's what 357L is about.

(Cleaver comment: some of these topics are dealt with more in depth in my other upperdivision course: Political Economy of International Crisis.)

Cleaver is very adamant and excited about the material presented Marx's Theory on Economics. However in a controversial class that disrupts contemporary economic thinking, I believe it is necessary to teach the material as one possible theory or idea instead of presenting it as a fact. Open discussion is vital and I would have liked to participate more in free opinion giving talks. The instructor himself is very competent and uncompromising. I would simply prefer a more flexible forum in which to learn about Marx, where clear, present day ideas are offered instead of insisting that Marx opinions are facts of life and history.

(Cleaver comment: Marx's opinions are NOT presented as "facts of life and history" but precisely as as one possible analysis of those things. Just because I happen to agree with a lot of what Marx wrote doesn't mean that I don't recognize and deal with his work as "one possible theory.")

The course was far more enlighiting and engaging than the typical boring problem set driven courses offered by the Economics Dept. Reading Capital was fairly difficult due to its length and sentence structure, but the course packets and lectures complemented the text very well and provided useful clarifications that very often made Capital understandable on a second read.

The lectures were generally good. Some however were absolutely fantastic while others were dreadfully tedious. Participation on the part of the students during class seemed stiffled by the intimating demeanor of the professor. The disparity between his knowledge of the subject and that of the students was painfully obvious in the few class discussions. If the professor were less quick to shoot down comments from students and allow them to finish their thoughts then perhaps more students would feel comfortable participating in discussions. Overall the course was a welcome change from the tedium of simple applied calculus that passes for an Economics Department at this University. It would have been preferable; however, to have a somewhat discussion oriented class rather than straight lecture.

(Cleaver comment: the "disparity of knowledge" refered to above is generally unavoidable. "Shooting down" student comments is, and should be avoided. But even when such things are avoided (and I do try) that "disparity" mentioned above is often felt by students to be intimidating. It is very difficult to overcome the structural differences in knowledge (and power) between students and teachers; perhaps impossible, and perhaps another reason for abolishing education as we know it and innovating other forms of learning.)

I felt this class was not successful in teaching the students in terms they can understand. We were given a study guide written by the Professor, which was supposed to help us with understanding of Das Capital written by Karl Marx. From the students point of view this study guide was not written for them, but rather for his colleagues. The terminology he used was never explained and left many students confused. I think he should think about a new way to present the material. He should consider the old analogy of "consider this person has never heard of Karl Marx before. Now try to explain some of his basic ideas" In general talk in a way we can understand what you are talking about. Big vocabulary words only impress his colleagues, not his students.

(Cleaver comment: While I try to avoid incomprehensible jargon, every specialized area of study has some terms and ways of speaking that are peculiar to it and must be learned to have access to the literature. The suggested injunction against "big vocabulary words" is a demand for "dumbing down" which I find unreasonable. One of the reasons you come to college is to learn new words, new concepts, new ways of expressing ideas. While everthing should be translatable into the vernacular and have an understandable semantic content, that is not an argument for never moving beyond the vocabulary of the SAT.)

Great course. It really had an impact on me in and outside of the classroom. Cleaver seems like a great guy who is really interested in helping his students broaden their perspective.

You took WAY to long to get test 1 back. Power Point slides did little to convey major concepts, which made the reading the textbook extremely tedious. In my readings I found it nearly impossible to pinpoint how the ideas could fit into the text questions. You should be more clean about what could be on the test. People will learn more, test scores will be higher, and you won't have to curve the class.

(Cleaver comment: Slides are a mixed bag. On the one hand they provide an outline of the lectures which most students find useful. On the other hand, they can be a visual distraction drawing attention away from the the verbal dynamics of a lecture. Problematic, one muddles through.)

I think this professor is very knowledgeable and genuinely interested in the subject. He has as tendency to talk over the heads of a lot of us. I had the hardest time figuring out what the test questions were asking.

This should be taught in the Philosophy Department. The economic analysis is contrived and the formulas presented did not stand up under any type of analytical scrutiny. Marx clearly justifies his social views with bells and whistles much like "the wizard" in The Wizard of Oz. Cleaver probably brain-washed the weaker-minded students with his "capitalist as vampire" rhetoric. It is sad that I am required at this point to tell Cleaver what he wants to hear in order to graduate this semester with a degree in the science of economics. There really seems to be no way to fundamentally disagree with Marx and Cleaver and pass this class. I thought this class would be an objective study of Marx's theory of Capitalism. Finally, I feel that if the instructor knew my feelings I would be in jeopardy of passing the class.

(Cleaver comment: Vacuous criticism and highly ideological anti-Marxist rhetoric. As for "telling Cleaver what he wants to hear in order to graduate", well that is, I guess, what psychologists call "projection". I make quite clear that what I want on tests is reasoned responses, NOT agreement with my views. This person seems to be projecting onto me his or her own attitudes. There is no such thing as an "objective" study of Marx. This point was argued in class and this person has ignored the argument. I don't care whether you like Marx or disagree with his ideas (or mine for that matter). What I want is for students to engage those ideas. I have had lots of very conservative students and those who have seized the opportunity to whet their intellect on very different ideas through dialogue have gained from it. Those who have silently closed their mines to Marxist ideas and contented themselves with simple-minded rejection have left the course no different than they arrived. Their loss.)

Love the class, outside reading is a bit too much. I never felt really prepared for the test even though I put a good amount of preparation for it.

I really enjoyed this class, and I hadn't really expected to. Professor Cleaver was excellent at keeping the attention of the class, even though it was an hour and 15-min (that extra 25 min is a killer in most classes!) He was also very understanding to the needs of the class.

The class was organized very well. However, my interest in the class seemed to decline as the weeks passed.

The material in this class is enlightening.

Everything was fine except that when assignments are assigned in class that are not in the course syllabus, it may be helpful to post them in discussion forum and to repeat it in the next class sections. The particular examples I am referring to the assignment of seeing the movie "The Fight Club" I missed one class period and was not aware of this. Nothing was mentioned again in class and if it is going to be part of the test, it seems unfair that it wasn't mentioned again. Also, it doesn't seem appropriate because the movie may not be something that everyone would want to see. I personally have not and would not want to see it for several various reasons and I don't even think it is fair to assign it and much less put it on the test. Other than that, the course was stimulating and provided a new perspective to looking at capitalism.

(Cleaver comment: posting all assignements, including ad-hoc ones, on the web is a good idea. Assigning something that "not everyone would want to see" if left to their own proclivities is perfectly reasonable, it seems to me. Just like assigning books in a literature class, or anything else.)

The material in this course was very interesting, but sometimes extremely dry. Also, the reading was very dense and I found that I often had to go over the material 2 or 3 times before I actually comprehended. It to the extent that was required for tests. As far as tests go they were always fair questions but if you do not know how to express your thoughts by writing an essay you would fail no matter how much you knew. Lectures often got boring except when there was actual discussion. I think there was so little discussion during class because no one had ever read the material before hand. All in all I enjoyed this class for the most part and probably put more work into this course than I ever have for previous classes. It was TONS of reading and outside work, but once you understood it, there was little else outside work required (like no memorization or anything.)

(Cleaver comment: there is no doubt that if you have difficulty in "expressing your thoughts in writing" you will have problems with essay tests. However, it is very helpful to work in study groups where you can explain things to each other and thus gain some facility in "expressing yourself" as a prelude to actually writing essays.)

This is one of the most well read instructors I have ever had, in his specialty as well as other areas. How many times at night I have pulled my covers up to my chin and reflected: "Just give 'em SomaÉ" I most enjoyed his comments regarding "city art" and how it should be "territorial-izable" I have even incorporated this premise into projects for other classes. I appreciate his vigor for teaching and the way he obviously lives his philosophy. Perhaps another (or recommended) text for this class might be T. Bottommore's Dictionary of Marxist Thought it was an excellent supplement for me. Most of all, I wish there was a discussion section for this class it's a disservice to students not to hold discussion groups, especially since this is an upper-division course.

Primitive accumulation, relative and absolute surplus values. Were all interesting. Notation was often confusing and personally, I thought was not much use. Reading assignments too extensive. He had extensive knowledge of course material, but it was often difficult to understand even from his perspective. However, majority of material covered was very interesting and thought provoking.

This course was different from any other, and I appreciated the rebellious nature of a course that explored a subject so different form mainstream Texas education. I wish were more common modern examples of socialist teaching. If there were more common modern example of socialist teaching. If there are any periodicals that deal with this subject, I wish they would have been incorporated in the course. The tests seemed wordy and ambiguous in the questions. I found it difficult to answer a finite question. However I enjoyed the freedom of incorporating my own opinions into the essays. As a whole I feel that the knowledge I gained in this course liberated me in a way no other course ever has.

Death be not proud though some
Have called thee
Mighty and dreadful
for thou art
Not so
For those whom thou thinkest thou
Dost overthrow
Die not poor death, nor yet canst thou
Kill me

First quartet from Donnes Holy Sonnet

The class was an experience. I often did not agree with the grading mechanism. I did not think it was "fair" to assign a movie for a test one week before the test. I would have liked to study more current texts than the historical ones presented by Marx in primitive accumulation. Your slides and lectures were both wells prepared and helped me understand the material.

Harry Cleaver is truly one of the best instructors at this University. His approach to presenting Capital was very thought presented and made me and other students (I believe) really bet if the world and the constraints of our society. I have truly gained from this course (more than any other course at UT ) and especially from Harry Cleaver. Thank you Dr. Cleaver.

Since there are many economics requirements I would make the class more interesting to someone compare and contrast in a "neutral" way. The different systems and theory which would highlight even more particular position. I thought the amount of required reading was pretty high. The class was extremely interesting and stimulating in that it brought a different point of view.

I just briefly wanted to comment on how much I truly got from this course. Coming in I felt that it would be more or less along the lines of Economics in a socialist or Com. State, but what I gathered has altered my thoughts on such a wide range of areas, it's scary. With as much thought as you put in the class I want you to know that there is a few of us in particular that have put in hopefully similar amounts of time hashing and passing around ideas. I hope all your courses are as interesting and plan to talk to you more often.