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The Dynamics of Global Capitalism: Theory and Practice


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 7
  • Convenor and tutor: Ashok Kumar
  • Assessment: a 4000-word research paper (100%)

Module description

The Dynamics of Global Capitalism aims to leave you with a deeper theoretical, practical and critical analysis of global capitalism. Capitalism, or the capitalist mode of production, is characterised by private ownership, wage-based labour, a globally expansive system of development and exploitation. This class focuses on debates on the global dimensions of our current mode of production. Our analysis of ‘capital’ includes the firm, the network, the value chain, and as a logic. We cover quite a bit of terrain from analysing competition, to theories of crisis, and labour and inequality.

Globalisation today includes a diverse set of institutions including the state, which sets the formal rules within which businesses operate, provides public services, collects taxes, but also helps to optimise the environment for capital, discipline the working class, and absorb the crisis tendency of capital. In addition there are non-business, non-governmental actors - trade unions, civil society; and informal institutions.

Capitalism is both universal and functions in different ways in different countries; and, everywhere, it has changed as economies and states have developed, as technologies and organisational methods have changed, and as domestic competition has taken an international dimension.

This module will help you develop an understanding of (i) the origins of global capitalism and its articulations in the developed and developing countries; (ii) how it emerges and grows and affects the comparative and competitive advantages of nations; and (iii) the directions in which capitalism is developing today.

It will help you to recognise such differences when encountered in work or further study, and to develop informed opinions of their causes and effects. Through a study of both theory and practice you will understand the development and mechanics of capitalism and its institutions.

The module draws on research in the disciplines of political economy, economy geography, political science, sociology, history and economics. Where appropriate, it introduces and employs theoretical tools from these disciplines. You should leave the module with more than just a technical understanding of the economic world - one that aims to go beyond optimising the environment for businesses (ie the accumulation of capital) but demystifies the market to understand the ways capitalism is shaped by both the proprietors of capital and those organising against it.

Indicative module content

  • Historical background: national markets and mass production
  • Production systems and national comparative advantage under globalisation
  • The state: is it weaker or stronger under globalization?
  • Theories of crisis
  • Distribution of value across the value chain
  • From shared gains to growing inequality - the great U-turn
  • Workers’ bargaining power under globalization
  • Financialisation
  • Automation and consumption
  • The role of cities in capitalist development

Learning objectives

 By the end of this module, you will have a good understanding of:

  • situations related to differences in the emergence of capitalism between countries, and changes over time
  • the origins of modern institutional environments of capitalism in the more developed countries
  • how differences in institutional environments affect the comparative and competitive advantages of nations
  • the directions of development for leading of capitalism today.