SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

Politics of the World Economy

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

This course offers an introduction to the multidisciplinary field of global political economy. The examination of political economy is important for how it sheds light on the complexity of international capitalism, including its structures, processes, and outcomes. To accomplish this objective, insights from across the social sciences are needed. In other words, to paraphrase a famous quote, the world economy is too important to be left to the economists. The course is organised around debates in three areas: (1) conceptual frameworks, derived from the study of world politics and the tradition of political economy, including liberalism, Marxism, gender-based approaches, and constructivism; (2) the postwar history of governing the world economy, including attention to finance, trade, development, and energy; and (3) contemporary issues shaping the capitalist order, including the global financial crisis; socioeconomic inequalities; the new politics of trade regulation; the politics of the knowledge economy; the political economy of work; corporate social responsibility; fossil fuel politics and the wider environmental crisis; and new thinking on potential futures for the capitalist system. 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 course: (1) why and how does the politics of the world economy take its current form?; and (2) how does the international political economy create uneven consequences between particular actors, including governments; businesses; social classes; civil society groups and other categories? A short film series – titled ‘The Glory and Horror of Capitalism’ – will run alongside the course in the first term. The course will conclude with a parliamentary-style debate. A fieldtrip to the City of London will also be conducted (restricted to 20 participants).

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this course, students should be able to demonstrate:

  1. Course-specific skills
    Demonstrate detailed knowledge of debates within field of global political economy, including relevant conceptual frameworks, the international institutional history of the world economy, and major contemporary problems in key areas;
    Demonstrate the ability to articulate one’s political and normative positions on questions related to the global political economy;
  2. Discipline-specific skills
    Demonstrate a systematic understanding of knowledge on the global political economy, and a critical awareness of current problems;
    Demonstrate a conceptual understanding that enables critical evaluation of current research and advanced scholarship in the discipline;
    Evaluate methodologies and develop critiques of them and, where appropriate, propose new hypotheses;
  3. Personal and key skills
    Communicate effectively in speech and writing;
    Work independently and with peers to achieve common goals.

Scope and syllabus

Term 1

1.         Capitalism 101


Part I:   Conceptual Frameworks

2.         The Liberal Tradition

3.         The Marxist Legacy

4.         Gender Analysis

5.         Constructivist Approaches


Part II:   Governing the Postwar Capitalist System

6.         Finance: From Bretton Woods to Financialisation

7.         Trade: From the GATT to the WTO

8.         Development and its Discontents

9.         Energy and the Environment: The Struggle For Power


Term 2

Part III: Contemporary Issues in the International Political Economy

10.        The Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences

11.        The Social Crisis: Understanding Global Inequalities

12.        Reconfiguring World Trade: The WTO and Beyond

13.        The Politics of the Knowledge Economy

14.        Another Day, Another Dollar: The Political Economy of Work

15.        The Politics of Corporate Social Responsibility

16.        Fossil Fuels and the Alternatives

17.        A Planetary Emergency: The Political Economy of Climate Change

18.        Parliamentary-style Debate: A Crisis of Ideas: Rethinking World Capitalism or
Something Else?

19.        Conclusion and Revision Session

Method of assessment

Unseen examination: 50%
Two pieces of coursework: 25% each

Suggested reading

Required text

Eagleton-Pierce, M., Neoliberalism: The Key Concepts (Abingdon: Routledge, 2016) ***


Important works

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). **

Stanford, J., Economics for Everyone: A Short Guide to the Economics of Capitalism (London: Pluto Press, 2015). **

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). **



Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules