Introduction to Political Economy

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 1
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Politics and International Studies

Module overview

When you graduate, you need to find a job, a home, and a lifestyle.

Unless you possess extraordinary independent wealth (congrats), none of these objectives are possible without dipping your toes into the icy waters of the capitalist system. This module can obviously not guarantee your future dreams, but it can equip you with the knowledge to better navigate a planet where politics and economics fuse and confuse. In designing this module, I follow the general principle, to paraphrase a famous quote, that the world economy is too important to be left to the economists.

To make sense of political economy in toto we also need insights from political scientists, historians, geographers, sociologists, and anthropologists, among many others. Without fear or hindrance (leave them at the door as they are not needed), I encourage you to see and paint the kaleidoscopic colours of political economy.

Our journey moves through four stages. First, we ease our way in via some big scene setting questions. Second, I sharpen various conceptual tools for you to use and reuse, sourced from the workshops of liberalism, Marxism, gender analysis, and racial politics.

Third, we explore how capitalism was built over the past half century, a story of bankers, bureaucrats, and barons who often made a mess of it. Fourth, all these insights are mobilised for dissecting hot current issues, such as the climate crisis (literally hot), the global financial crisis and its fallout, the politics of trade competition, socio-economic inequalities, technology debates, the politics of work, and macro conversations on the future of capitalism. Bonus features include: a field trip to the City of London, one of the finanical capitals of the world; a film screening; and social drinks (let’s extract SOAS resources for ourselves like true capitalists).

Objectives and learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate detailed knowledge of debates within field of political economy, including relevant conceptual frameworks, the international institutional history of the world economy, and major contemporary problems in key issue areas
  • Demonstrate the ability to articulate one’s own normative and political positions on questions concerning the capitalist system
  • Enhance effective communication in speech and writing
  • Work independently and with peers to achieve common goals


  • 1-hour lecture per week
  • 1-hour tutorial per week

Method of assessment

  • Assignment 1: 20%
  • Assignment 2: 30%
  • Exam: 50%

Suggested reading

  • Eagleton-Pierce, M., Neoliberalism: The Key Concepts (Abingdon: Routledge, 2016)
  • Fulcher, J., Capitalism: A very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015)
  • Ravenhill, J. (ed.), Global Political Economy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017)
  • Stanford, J., Economics for Everyone: A Short Guide to the Economics of Capitalism (London: Pluto Press, 2015)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules