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TRN162Y1: Political Economy and Social Inequality


This course explores the topic of social inequality through the history of political economic thought. In the first semester, we look at the economic ideas of foundational thinkers. We will explore the developments in economic theory and how they correspond to the kinds of social inequality that exist across different forms of society. One of our goals is understanding our own society better by comparing and contrasting it to past societies. We study ancient and medieval thinkers, like Aristotle and Aquinas, as well as early modern thinkers like Hobbes and Locke. We also explore classical political economy and its critics, including Smith, Ricardo, Marx, and Walras. In the second semester, we study specific topics, including the relation between capitalism and democracy; debates about markets and planning; globalization and the future of work; and an extended unit on debates about social equality and inequality. The assignments include essays, seminar presentations, and participation.

Breadth Requirements: 0.5 FCE 2) Thought, Belief and Behaviour + 0.5 FCE 3) Society and Its Institutions


All assignments in TRN162Y1 will require critical thinking and engaging with the views of others. These assignments might include reflective essays about course readings, longer research essays about policy issues and their philosophical justifications, and class presentations and seminar discussions. Participation in this course is weighted heavily.

Note: Assignments can vary year to year.


Students will learn how to situate a society’s economic institutions within their broader political context, and study how economic outcomes interact with broader policies relating to, for example, health, equality, social mobility and well-being. We will analyze empirical results while developing critical skills for interpreting economic data and research.


How should I prepare for this course?

TRN162Y1 combines economic and political philosophy to answer big real-world policy questions. As such, many of the weekly course readings will be dense and explore difficult concepts. To prepare for TRN162Y1, consider working through the academic reading modules on the Trinity One Quercus site over the summer to familiarize yourself with the level of reading proficiency expected in TRN162Y1.

What should I know before starting this course?

The course readings can be challenging at times, especially those from older authors and those that are more theoretical. Due to the high volume of readings, if you’re unsure what a specific passage means, you might not have enough time to investigate deeply. Instead, focus on key ideas in each reading and read strategically. Talk to your classmates and instructor to ensure that you’ve correctly understood the author’s key ideas and that you’re able to compare them to your ideas and those of other authors.

What if I'm nervous about speaking in front of my class?

Because this course lasts a full year, you have lots of opportunity to develop the ability to speak in front of your peers. This might take a couple weeks, but once you start to develop a level of familiarity with your professor and classmates, the prospect of sharing your ideas won’t seem so daunting. If you’re feeling uncomfortable about sharing, speak to the professor before each class for some advice about how to contribute.



Xavier Scott, TRN162 Course InstructorXavier Scott, PhD

Email: xavier.scott@utoronto.ca

Professor Xavier Scott earned his PhD in philosophy from York University. He has a passion for teaching political theory with a focus on social justice issues. His research critiques colonial constitutional orders and legal norms for violating principles of justice and aims to promote reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.


Contact Us:

Sharon Reid
Margaret MacMillan Trinity One Program Coordinator (Acting)


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