Do human societies progress? It seems incontestable that some societies have made immense leaps forward over the last 200 years, reaching levels of wealth and welfare that had long been unthinka­ble.

Technology, in all its guises, has been an essential driver of this progress. At the same time, how­ever, it is clear that welfare has been highly unevenly spread: while Norwegians on average live until they are 81 and face a 0.3% chance that their new-born baby will die before the age of 5, Malians only live for 51 years and face a 13% chance of child mortality. To account for this global inequality in de­velopment, social scientists argue that innovation and human welfare are contingent on certain po­litical, economic, and social systems (or ‘institutions’).

Learning objectives

  • Characterise the meanings and measurements of prosperity

  • Develop a broad sense of the types of political, economic, and social institutions that strengthen prosperity, and those that do not

  • Understand several important analytical tools from the social sciences that can be used to study ways to enhance prosperity

  • Enhance academic scientific skills, including debating, essay writing, and locating and selecting primary and secondary scholarly sources

Weekly themes

  1. What do we value? Determining the scope of ‘prosperity’

  2. When greed is good (and when it’s not). Making the market work for human welfare

  3. Working together apart. Studying collective action problems

  4. Too big to fail? The nature of organisations and the principal-agent problem

  5. Levels of analysis and networks. Using multi-level and network analysis in the study of public health.

  6. Complexity’s challenge. The holistic study of global public health

  7. Changing the rules of the game. Prosperity and institutional change

  8. Reading week


Last Modified: 08-09-2015