Recessions offer a unique opportunity to understand the mechanism of contemporary society. Recessions strike hardest at the weakest points. They reveal what periods of prosperity hide: the vulnerable foundations on which economies grow and societies develop. The study of the effects of recessions allows us to draw lessons about their long-term consequences and the possibilities of how to avoid them, of how to transform society to prepare it for a more prosperous and stable future. In this vein, the most recent recession, by virtue of its unprecedented extent and formidable depth, presents a breaking point, whose transformative potential can only be appreciated if we understand and draw the right lessons from its consequences.
This course offers students an opportunity to explore the social consequences of the recent recession. Its focus, in other words, is not on the intricate and technical workings of the financial system. Instead, the course offers an original sociological perspective on the effects that the recession has had on the labor market, on welfare institutions, on income and consumption inequality, on the health and educational system, on public opinion. Using classical texts in economic sociology and empirical analyses of the most up-to-date trends, it allows students to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of the contemporary postindustrial society and, by comparing the successes and failures of Western states to deal with the consequences of the recession, to make evidence-based prescriptions on how to improve its foundations.