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International Political Economy: Concepts and History


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 7
  • Convenors and tutors: Ali Güven, David Styan
  • Assessment: a 3000-word essay (90%) and 500-word seminar log (10%)

Module description

This module introduces you to the central concepts and theories associated with the scholarly field of the same name (also known as 'global political economy'). The module has a distinctly historical focus whereby theoretical perspectives are presented as part of the wider evolution of the global political-economic system. After a brief discussion of realist, liberal and critical perspectives in the field, the discussion will cover nineteenth-century debates around questions of free trade, economic nationalism and imperialism. This will be followed by a methodical examination of twentieth-century policy challenges in relation to the Great Depression, the post-war settlement and the Bretton Woods regime, decolonisation and underdevelopment, and social and environmental sustainability.

Indicative module syllabus

  • Introduction: what is IPE?
  • IPE: liberalism vs realism
  • Classical political economy
  • Free trade vs protectionism
  • Empire, race and nineteenth-century globalisation
  • Depression and war
  • Keynes and post-1945 regimes: embedded liberalism?
  • Decolonisation and the 'new international economic world order'
  • Polanyi: the 'double movement'?
  • Environmental IPE and the limits to growth

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will:

  • have a good grasp of concepts and theories associated with the field of international political economy (IPE)
  • have a solid understanding of the historical evolution of global political economy from a scholarly well-informed perspective
  • be able to critically engage with ongoing debates in the field of IPE on historical issues such as free trade, imperialism, decolonisation and economic crises
  • have a broad understanding of key contemporary global trends as seen from pertinent scholarly perspectives
  • have developed skills of critical thinking, enquiry, synthesis, analysis and evaluation that can be employed on other modules studied at this level.