SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

Politics of the World Economy

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
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, race and ethnicity, and economic nationalism;
  2. the post-WWII history of governing the world economy, including attention to finance, trade, development, and energy and the environment; and 
  3. contemporary issues transfixing the world economy, including the global ecological crisis, the global financial crisis and its fallout, the politics of trade regulation, socio-economic inequalities, new concerns around technology, the political economy of work, consumerism and its politics, the political economy of land and property, and macro debates on capitalism and its futures. 

Students are asked to think critically about how the politics of the international economy is conceived, governed, and experienced, in particular through evaluating dynamics of power. 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 social agents, including governments, businesses, social classes, civil society organisations, and other groups? 

In the first term, a field trip to the City of London will be conducted (restricted to around 20 participants), along with two film screenings and other social drinks.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

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

  1. Module-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.


  • 1 hour lecture per week 1 hour tutorial per week

Scope and syllabus

Term 1
  1. Introduction: Capitalism 101
Part I: Conceptual Frameworks
  1. The Liberal Tradition
  2. The Marxist Legacy
  3. Gender Analysis
  4. The Political Economy of Race and Ethnicity
  5. Conceptual Case Study: Economic Nationalism
Part II: Governing the Post-WWII Capitalist System
  1. Finance: From Bretton Woods to Financialisation
  2. Trade: From the GATT to the WTO
  3. Development and its Discontents
  4. Energy and the Environment: The Struggle for Power
Term 2
Part III: Contemporary Issues in the World Economy
  1. The Planetary Emergency: The New Political Economy of Climate Change
  2. The Global Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences
  3. Reconfiguring World Trade: The WTO and Beyond
  4. Global Inequalities: From the Super-Rich to the Extreme Poor
  5. Data Rules: The Political Economy of Technology
  6. Another Day, Another Dollar: The Political Economy of Work
  7. I Shop, Therefore I Am: The Political Economy of Consumerism
  8. The Political Economy of Land and Property
  9. Capitalism and its Alternatives
  10. Conclusion and Exam Strategy

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
  • Ravenhill, J. (ed.), Global Political Economy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014 or 2016). **

  • 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