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Organizational Details

Instructor: Dr. Maurie Cohen

Location: CKB 313

Time: Tuesdays 6–9pm

Office: Cullimore 427

Office Hours: Tuesdays 3–5pm and by appointment

Telephone: 973.596.5281

E-mail: mcohen@njit.edu

Course Website: http://njit2.mrooms.net

Personal Website: http://mauriecohen.net



Earth systems scientists advise that we now live in a newly designated era referred to as the “anthropocene.” This term has been coined in recent years to distinguish the last approximately 250 years of human activity on the planet from other periods of geological history. It has also become evident that efforts to date to modify human practices to conform to biospheric limits on the basis of public regulations and remedial technologies have not been successful and we have already crossed several “planetary boundaries.” Despite progress on some local and regional issues, most global-scale ecological problems have worsened due to growing demand for energy and other resources.

At the same time, familiar systems of social organization in affluent countries are starting to erode in the face of demographic aging, growing income inequality, decline of wage-based labor, political paralysis, and resource scarcity and there is public awareness that a sustainable future depends on more than just reducing the environmental impacts of human activities. Also necessary is a more systemic understanding of the numerous interlinked challenges that we face—including climate change, freshwater availability, population growth, biodiversity loss, food availability, energy security, social inclusion, and financial stability—and the need for large-scale system innovation. But what will propel the necessary changes? And how can we ensure that they unfold in directions that amerliorate rather than exacerbate extant conditions?

This course critiques several popular conceptual strategies currently “in the air” for moving toward conditions of sustainability during the 21st century (sharing economy, small-scale provisioning, and relocalization). We also consider the social, economic, and environmental implications of sweeping technological changes that are poised to disrupt conventional arrangements for supporting contemporary livelihoods. Throughout this course we will consider the general notion of social change and how unfolding developments can be steered in ways that can lead to a more sustainable future. Students will also engage through a series of mentor-supported projects that provide an opportunity to learn about practical, on-the-ground planning initiatives to foster more sustainable outcomes.


Course Materials

All reading materials and other associated items are available via the course website (http://njit2.mrooms.net). Items are organized into weekly folders and can be viewed online or saved. A valid UCID is required to access the website. Various other optional resources are itemized in the schedule below. Other discretionary materials include the following:




Boyle, D. and A. Simms. 2009. The New Economics: A Bigger Picture. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.

Korten, D. 2010. Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Heinberg, R. 2011. The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society.

Maxton, G. and J. Randers. 2016. Reinventing Prosperity: Managing Economic Growth to Reduce Unemployment, Inequality, and Climate Change. New York: Graystone Books.

Sachs, J. 2017. Building the New American Economy: Smart, Fair, and Sustainable. New York: Columbia University Press.


Useful websites:


Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (https://bealocalist.org)

Center for a New American Dream (now New Dream) (https://www.newdream.org)

Centre for Understanding Sustainable Prosperity (http://www.cusp.ac.uk)

Democracy Collaborative (http://democracycollaborative.org)

Great Transition Initiative (http://www.greattransition.org)

Green Economy Coalition (http://www.greeneconomycoalition.org)

Institute for New Economic Thinking (https://www.ineteconomics.org)

New Economics Foundation (http://www.greeneconomycoalition.org)

New Economy Coalition (see also map of constituent members at the top of website) (http://neweconomy.net)

Orion Magazine (https://orionmagazine.org)

P2P Foundation (https://p2pfoundation.net)

Post-carbon Institute (http://www.postcarbon.org)

Redefining Progress (http://rprogress.org)

Schumacher Center for New Economics (http://www.centerforneweconomics.org)

Sustainable Consumption Research and Action Initiative (http://scorai.org)

The Next System Project (http://thenextsystem.org)

Yes! Magazine (http://www.yesmagazine.org)




Class Attendance (10%): All students are expected to attend each face-to-face (FtF) class session. Arrival more than twenty minutes after the start of each class session will be treated as an absence. Each student will be granted one “free absence” during the semester; every subsequent absence will mean a full letter-grade reduction in the attendance portion of your final grade (i.e., three absences is a B, four absences is a C, and so forth).


Class Participation (20%): All students are required to engage actively in class discussions by offering comments, posing questions, and demonstrating familiarity with the course material. Consult the supplementary rubric posted to the course website for information on the assignment of grades for class participation.


Periodic Written Assignments (20%): Throughout the semester there will be several “virtual” class sessions where we will not meet on a FtF basis. In addition to the readings and other assigned materials students will be required on these dates to write a 500-word essay in response to a particular question.


Group Research Project [50% overall; constituent parts--preliminary presentation (10%), final presentation (15%), project report (25%)]: The course requires completion of a group research project (three-student groups are preferred) selected from a set of prepared options (see separate list). Students are free to self-organize into their own groups or I am glad to assist in the process upon request. Projects will require collaboration with an assigned practitioner-mentor who will assist your group in undertaking the required research and serve as an expert point of contact. Groups should at minimum plan to arrange an initial telephone or skype call with their respective practitioner-mentor early in the semester and a second call midway through the term. Each group will deliver a 15-minute preliminary presentation (currently scheduled for March 20) and a final presentation (approximately 45 minutes) during the final weeks of the semester.


All student groups should schedule a meeting with me during Week 3 (January 30 or 31) for an initial discussion of their project. A one-page (double-spaced) proposal is due on February 6. The proposal should also include a bibliography identifying approximately 4-5 sources that have at this stage been deemed useful. A second face-to-face meeting to assess progress on each project will be held during Week 7 (February 27 or 28) followed by a brief in-class presentation during Week 9 (March 20). We will then meet for the third and last time to discuss the projects during the week prior to each group’s final presentation. The research project will culminate with submission of a 15-page (double-spaced) report due on May 8.


Summary of Key Project Deadlines


Week Number        Date                                         Event/Task_____________________________

Week 3                  January 30/31                           First project meeting

Week 4                  February 6                               Project proposal (with bibliography) due

Week 7                  February 27/28                         Second project meeting

Week 9                  March 20                                 Preliminary project presentations

Weeks 10-13          March 27/April 3/10/17             Third meeting (date varies depending on group)

Weeks 11‒14         April 3/10/17/24                       Final in-class presentations

Week 16                May 8                                      Research project report due



Important Notices

Students enrolled in this course are forewarned that the consequences of plagiarism or academic misconduct of any kind are severe. Violations will be handled in accordance with the rules outlined in the University Code on Academic Integrity. If you are unfamiliar with this Code, you should consult https://www5.njit.edu/policies/sites/policies/files/academic-integrity-code.pdf.


Final grades are not subject to post-semester adjustment—with the exception of the change of a grading error. Under no circumstances will students be given the opportunity to complete extra-credit papers or other assignments to enhance their final grades.




Week 1 (January 16): Introduction / What is the Anthropocene? (Virtual Session)



Nijhuis, M. 2015. When did the human epoch begin? The New Yorker, March 11.

Kolbert, E. 2010. The Anthropocene debate: marking humanity’s impact. Yale Environment 360, May 17.

Zalasiewicz, J., M. Williams, W. Steffen, and P. Crutzen. 2010. The New World of the Anthropocene. Environmental Science and Technology, 44:2228‒2231.


Davies. J. 2016. The Birth of the Anthropocene. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

McNeill, J. and P. Engelke. 2016. The Great Acceleration: An Environmental History of the Anthropocene. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.


Week 2 (January 23): Innovating the Sustainable Economy (FtF Session)



Speth, J. 2012. America the possible: a manifesto, Part 1. Orion, May/June.

Speth, J. 2012. America the possible: a manifesto, Part 2. Orion, July/August.

Alperowitz, G. 2011. The new economy movement, The Nation, 13 June.



McKibben, B. 2008. Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. New York: St. Martin’s.

Schor, J. and C. Thompson, eds. 2014. Sustainable Lifestyles and the Quest for Plenitude: Case Studies of the New Economy. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.


Week 3 (January 30): “Doughnut” Economics (FtF Session)



Monbiot, G. 2017. Finally, a breakthrough alternative to growth economics—the doughnut, The Guaridan, 17 April.

Raworth, K. 2012. A Safe and Just Space for Humanity: Can We Live Within the Doughnut? Oxford: Oxfam.



Raworth, K. 2017. Doughnut Economics: 7 Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green.

Tirole, J. 2017. Economics for the Common Good. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.


Initial Meeting to Discuss Research Project (January 30 and 31)


Week 4 (February 6): Sustainability and the Platform (Sharing) Economy / Collaborative Consumption (FtF Session)



Greenhouse, S. 2016. The whatchamacallit economy. The New York Times, 16 December.

Schor, J. 2014. Debating the sharing economy. Great Transition Initiative, October (and associated commentary and author’s response).

Kessler, S. 2014. Pixel and dimed: on (not) getting by in the gig economy. Fast Company, March 18.

Cohen, M. 2017. The (mostly) empty promise of the sharing economy, pp. 44‒69 in The Future of Consumer Society: Prospects for Sustainability in the New Economy. New York: Oxford University Press.



Martin, C. 2016. The sharing economy: a pathway to sustainability or a nightmarish form of neoliberal capitalism? Ecological Economics 121:149‒159.

Slee, T. 2016. What’s Yours is Mine: Against the Sharing Economy. Portland: OR Books.


Project Proposal (with Bibliography) Due


Week 5 (February 13): Maker Movement and DIY Production (FtF Session)



Fallows, J. 2016. Why the maker movement matters: part 1, the tools revolution. The Atlantic, June 5.

Fallows, J. 2016. Why the maker movement matters: part 2, agility. The Atlantic, June 9.

Morozov, E. 2014. Making it. The New Yorker. January 13.

Cohen, M. 2017. The mass-market maker movement, pp. 70‒91 in The Future of Consumer Society: Prospects for Sustainability in the New Economy. New York: Oxford University Press.



Crawford, M. 2010. Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work. New York: Penguin.

Hatch, M. 2014. The Maker Movement Manifesto. New York: McGraw-Hill.


Week 6 (February 20): Economic Relocalization (Virtual Session)



Berry, W. 2001. The idea of a local economy. Orion, Winter.

Shuman, M. 2010. Relocalizing business, pp. 110‒115 in State of the World: Transforming Cultures From Consumerism to Sustainability. New York: W. W. Norton.

Boyer, M. 2012. 100-mile houses expand the locavore movement from food to architecture. Good Design, February 24.

Cohen, M. 2017. Localization fallacies, pp. 92‒114 in The Future of Consumer Society: Prospects for Sustainability in the New Economy. New York: Oxford University Press.



De Young, R. and T. Princen. 2012. The Localization Reader: Adapting to the Coming Downshift. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Hines, C. 2017. Localization: A Global Manifesto. New York: Routledge.


Week 7 (February 27): Digital Automation and Sustainability (FtF Session)



Chui, M., J. Manyika, and M. Miremadi. 2016. Where machines could replace humans—and where they can’t (yet). McKinsey Quarterly, July.

West, D. 2015. What happens if robots take the jobs? The impact of emerging technologies on employment and public policy. Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings, October.

Cohen, M. 2017. Consumption in the era of digital automation, pp. 115‒132 in The Future of Consumer Society: Prospects for Sustainability in the New Economy. New York: Oxford University Press.



Brynjolfsson, E. and A. McAfree. 2014. The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies. New York: W. W. Norton.

Ford, M. 2015. Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future. New York: Basic Books.


Second Meeting to Discuss Research Project (February 27 and 28)


Week 8 (March 6): Sustainability in the Post-work / Post-consumer Economy (Virtual Session)



Thompson, D. 2015. A world without work. The Atlantic, July/August.

Strauss, I. 2016. Would a work-free world be so bad? The Atlantic, June 28.

Frayne, D. 2016. Stepping outside the circle: the ecological promise of shorter working hours. Green Letters 20(2):197‒212.



Rifkin, J. 1995. The End of Work: The Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of the Post-market Era. New York: Tarcher.

Srnicek, N. and A. Williams. 2015. Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work. New York: Verso

Frase, P. 2016. Four Futures: Life After Capitalism. New York: Verso.


March 13: Spring Break—No Class Session


Week 9 (March 20): Preliminary Project Presentations (FtF Session)


Week 10 (March 27): The End of Sustainability? (FtF Session)



Zolli, A. 2012. Learning to bounce back. The New York Times, November 2 (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/03/opinion/forget-sustainability-its-about-resilience.html).

Benson, M. and R. Craig. 2014. The end of sustainability. Society and Natural Resources 27(7):777‒782.

Blühdorn, I. 2017. Post-capitalism, post-growth, post-consumerism? Eco-political hopes beyond sustainability. Global Discourse 7(1):42‒61.



Foster, J. 2014. After Sustainability: Denial, Hope, Retrieval. New York: Routledge.

Hamilton, C., F. Gemenne, and C. Bonneuil, Eds. 2015. The Anthropocene and the Global Environmental Crisis: Rethinking Modernity in a New Epoch. New York: Routledge.


Week 11 (April 3): Project Presentations (Groups #1 and #2) (FtF Session)


Week 12 (April 10): Project Presentations (Groups #3 and #4) (FtF Session)


Week 13 (April 17): Project Presentations (Groups #5 and #6) (FtF Session)


Week 14 (April 24): Project Presentations (Groups #7 and #8) (FtF Session)


Research projects due: May 8