On Morals and Markets

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Earlier this year, Dr Olivia Nicol and Dr Zsombor Meder co-designed a new elective titled “Morals and Markets”. This collaboration between their two disciplines – sociology and economics – brought an innovative blend of ideas to the HASS curriculum. The course catered to growing societal interest in the moral dimension of economic activities.

Course instructors Dr Zsombor Meder (left) and Dr Olivia Nicol (right) co-designed the elective which is a blend of sociology and economics disciplines

The advance of technology in various domains of life, e.g. reproductive technology, as well as the expanding scope of the market, e.g. in hospice care and in pollution permits, raises fundamental ethical concerns. The main goal of the course was to present the debates surrounding the moral (normative) evaluation of markets.

The two faculty members decided to work together to present students with a wide range of perspectives and paradigms in addressing these questions. “Teaching with a colleague from a different discipline forced me to rethink even the terminology that I used. It also motivated me to go beyond asking questions of efficiency.” says Dr Meder. “This approach also enabled me to better explain to students the similarities and differences within the social sciences.”

The students’ response was overwhelmingly positive. The professors and students in the class had passionate discussions about many different subjects, including surrogate motherhood, bankers’ compensation, money laundering. In their evaluations, students shared that they found the class eye opening. “I believe that co-teaching a class is great experience both for students and instructors,” explains Dr Nicol. “Zsombor and I had endless discussions about the readings and the debates we had with students, which have led us to decide to collaborate on a research project. Research and teaching are more fun when they are performed in a team!”

                                                                                      Two possible choices by dooder/Freepik