SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

Politics of the World Economy

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

This module 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 module is organised around debates in four 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 (3) contemporary hallmarks of neoliberalism, including the new politics of trade regulation; the political economy of dispossession; logistics, supply chains, and chokepoints; outsourcing; and the political economy of work; and (4) topics around the subject of crisis, including the global financial crisis; socioeconomic inequalities; the wider environmental crisis; and the migration crisis. 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 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 collectives and other groups? In the first term, a field trip to the City of London will be conducted (restricted to 20 participants), along with a film screening 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.

Scope and syllabus

Term 1

1. Capitalism 101

Part I: Conceptual Frameworks

2. The Liberal Tradition
3. The Marxist Legacy
4. Gender Analysis
5. The Political Economy of Race and Ethnicity
6. Conceptual Crossroads Case Study: Economic Nationalism

Part II: Governing the Postwar Capitalist System

7. Finance: From Bretton Woods to Financialisation
8. Trade: From the GATT to the WTO
9. Development and its Discontents
10.Energy and the Environment: The Struggle For Power

Term 2

Part III: Hallmarks of Neoliberalism

11. Reconfiguring World Trade: The WTO and Beyond
12. Dispossession
13. Logistics, Supply Chains, and Chokepoints
14. Outsourcing: Call Centres, Confinement and Cleaners
15. Another Day, Another Dollar: The Political Economy of Work

Part IV: An Age of Crisis?

16. The Global Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences
17. The Social Crisis: Understanding Global Inequalities
18. A Planetary Emergency: The Political Economy of Climate Change
19. The Migration Crisis

20. Conclusion

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