SOAS University of London

Department of Development Studies

Neoliberalism, Democracy and Global Development (MSc RID)

Module Code:
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Taught in:
Term 2

This module explores dimensions of neoliberalism, imperialism, democracy and development as global phenomena and from a cross-disciplinary approach. It is not adequate to approach neoliberalism as merely a turn in economic theory, nor is it accurate to conceptualise imperialism as a thing of the past. Because of its dominance and spread, neoliberalism is no longer is an esoteric and arcane policy framework. It affects everyday life in locales far away from the world’s financial and political capitals, and has meant that the West has had to defend neoliberal policies with military force, directly intervening in countries of either strategic importance or that are rich in resources, or fighting proxy wars to secure access to these resources. But what consequences has this had for democracy and the spread of democracy? And how have neoliberalism and imperialism been resisted, particularly since 9/11 and the War on Terror? Some of the main themes highlighted in the module include: that neoliberalism has been both a specific project and a general condition of the world over the past three decades; that imperialism – in a sense the ‘armed wing’ of neoliberalism – has been integral to the neoliberal project; and that a vacuous form of democracy has become the typical form of management of social relations under neoliberalism. These issues are examined both historically and conceptually, in order to inform a critical analysis of the global political economy. Although the module focuses on the period post-2001, there will be ample opportunity for examination of the preceding decades. Please note that students will be expected to read extensively in order to contribute to this module.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of the module, a student should be able to demonstrate the ability to:

  • Engage with the major theoretical debates related to neoliberalism, including the process of neoliberal ascendancy and its effects in the domains of culture, society, economy and polity, and its efforts to separate these domains.
  • Engage with the major debates related to imperialism, including new forms of imperialism and its consequences, and inter-imperial rivalry.
  • Engage with the major debates related to democracy, including the erosion of democratic political forms under neoliberalism.
  • Systematically analyse the power and limits of neoliberalism, imperialism and contemporary forms of democracy, and the interaction between these phenomena.
  • Critically assess the success or otherwise of neoliberal and imperial policies and approaches, including an understanding of the various forms of resistance against neoliberalism and imperialism around the world.
  • Critically assess the strengths and limitations of democracy under neoliberalism, and a critical understanding of the alternative forms of political regulation of social conflict in contemporary (neoliberal) societies.


One two-hour lecture and one one-hour tutorial per week.

Scope and syllabus

This 15 CATS credits module will be delivered alongside the parallel module 'Neoliberalism, Democracy and Global Development', worth 22.5 CATS credits. Students will have the opportunity to attend all lectures and tutorials, however the assessed component will be approximately 75% of the 22.5 CATS credits syllabus. Material delivered in the lectures and tutorials which is NOT examinable will equate to two of the ten weeks of the module, and will be identified by the module convenor and communicated to students at the start the module.

Method of assessment

100% coursework, consisting of: one essay of no more than 1000 words, worth 20% each; two essays of no more than 2000 words, worth 40% each. 


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules