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Department of Politics and International Studies

Politics of the World Economy

Course Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Full Year

This course offers an introduction to the cross-disciplinary, intellectual field of International Political Economy (IPE). The examination of the international political economy is important for how it sheds light on the complexity of capitalism, including its structures, processes, and outcomes. The module is organised around a set of prominent debates in three areas: (1) conceptual frameworks, derived from both international relations and the broader tradition of political economy, including liberalism, Marxism, nationalism, constructivism, and feminism; (2) the post-war history of governing the world economy, including attention to finance, trade, development, and energy; and (3) contemporary crises afflicting the capitalist order, including an examination of the global financial crisis; socioeconomic inequalities; new politics of trade; international production networks; the political economy of work; intellectual property questions; fossil fuel politics and the wider ecological crisis; and new thinking on potential futures for the world economy. Students are asked to think critically about how the politics of the international economy is conceived and governed, in particular through evaluating issues of power and equity. There are two main questions addressed throughout the module: (1) why and how does the international political economy take its current form?; and (2) how does the international political economy impact on particular actors, including governments; firms and other producers; civil society groups and other people? A film series – titled ‘The Glory and Horror of Capitalism’ – will run alongside the course.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

At the end of this course a student should be able to

  • Knowledge of the major theories and approaches in understanding the interaction between politics and economics at the global level
  • Ability to critically evaluate and apply such theories and approaches
  • Knowledge of major substantive themes in International Political Economy
  • Ability to think critically about the relevance of mainstream theories of International Political Economy and their relevance to experience and interests of actors in Asia, Africa and the Middle East
  • Basic understanding of the major international and regional institutions in world politics as well as significant developments in global political economy
  • Ability to analyse the global economy from a variety of perspectives
  • Ability to apply theories to case studies

Scope and syllabus

Term 1

1. Introduction: Why IPE?

Part I: Conceptual Frameworks
2. The Liberal Tradition
3. The Marxist Legacy
4. Economic Nationalism
5. Constructivist and Feminist Approaches

Part II: Governing the Postwar Capitalist System
6. Finance: From Bretton Woods to the Big Bang
7. Trade: From the GATT to the WTO
8. Development and its Discontents
9. Energy: The Struggle For Power

Term 2

Part III: Contemporary Issues in the International Political Economy
10. The Financial Explosion: Causes and Consequences
11. The Social Crisis: Understanding Global Inequalities
12. Reconfiguring World Trade: The WTO and Beyond
13. The Political Economy of Production
14. Another Day, Another Dollar: The Political Economy of Work
15. Copywronged: The Politics of the Knowledge Economy
16. Fossil Fuels and the Alternatives
17. A Planetary Emergency: The Political Economy of the Environment
18. A Crisis of Ideas: Rethinking World Capitalism or Something Else?

19. Conclusion and Revision Session.

Method of assessment

Assessment is 50% unseen examination, two pieces of coursework (25% each). Coursework may be resubmitted.

Suggested reading

Suggested reading

Blyth, M. (ed), Routledge Handbook of International Political Economy (IPE): IPE as a Global Conversation (Abingdon: Routledge, 2009).

Eagleton-Pierce, M., Neoliberalism: The Key Concepts (Abingdon: Routledge, 2015).

Gilpin, R., Global Political Economy: Understanding the International Economic Order (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001).

Frieden, J. and Lake, D., International Political Economy: Perspectives on Global Power and Wealth (London: Routledge, 2000).

Ravenhill, J. (ed), Global Political Economy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011 or 2014). **

Strange, S., States and Markets (London: Frances Pinter Publishers Ltd, 1994).

Walter and Sen, G., Analyzing the Global Political Economy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008).