International Political Economy

Module description

The module looks historically at the way ‘politics’ is put into the term political economy, from Adam Smith onwards, to question mainstream economic ideology. It evaluates assumptions about the identity of economic agents, the visions in economic thought that this gives rise to and the significance for theory building. These philosophical perspectives are used to critically explore contemporary issues in international political economy such as the nature and logic of capitalism, the rise of neo-liberalism, new economic thinking and globalisation.

Additional Information:

International Political Economy critically reviews the economic paradigms that provide alternative explanations for how the material world is explained. As such the course content is inherently international throughout.

Sustainability & Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility
Given the critical nature of the course the meaning of issues like sustainability, ethics and corporate social responsibility are examined within paradigms that the course examines. That is to say that there are economic and political interpretations of what the term might mean.

The philosophical and critical nature of the course affords students the opportunity to examine the issues that would otherwise be taken for granted. The course challenges understandings of common sense. As a consequence students’ analytical skills are enhanced enabling a possible deeper conception of the nature of the problematic under investigation. A case study is provided by the financial crash of 2007-8.

Full module specification

Module title:International Political Economy
Module code:BEE3042
Module level:3
Academic year:2020/1
Module lecturers:
  • Neil Smith - Lecturer
Module credit:15
ECTS value:



BEE1027 or BEE1029

This module cannot be taken by BSc/BA Economics students.



Duration of module: Duration (weeks) - term 1:


Module aims

The aims of the module are to develop the themes introduced in the first year modules in the Introduction to Political Economy and the Philosophy of Economics by their application to contemporary issues in globalisation, ethics and morality, economic methodology and ideology.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. recognise and understand definitions of globalisation from an economic perspective by making distinctions between theories of markets and theories of capitalism.
  • 2. determine the methodological and political bases of these distinctions
  • 3. survey national and international economic policies in the light of a] the distinctions between markets and capitalism and b] their methodological and political foundations.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. demonstrate a clear understanding of human nature, methodological individualism, value, idealism, materialism, the role of the state and the place these concepts have for distinguishing between important schools of economic thought
  • 5. identify contemporary conflicts between neo-liberal and social democratic ideologies
  • 6. recognise the limits of social analysis and the need for new economic thinking

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. the ability to construct arguments, evaluate ideas and debates and present written material in a coherent manner. Students will refine a critical faculty, stimulated by an ideological awareness that questions resuppositions to enable a clear articulation of reasoned judgements in the area where economics and politics collide.
  • 8. personal introspection, reflection and discursive debate.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Contact hours12Lectures
8Student led Seminars

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
One group seminar presentation2 hours1-8Written critique within 1 week

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Written examination1002 hours1-8Personal meeting if requested

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Unseen examination2 hours Exam (100%) 1-8As advised by university exam regulations

Syllabus plan

• Introduction
• Efficacy of Markets and Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand revisited
• The Liberal conception of the economic role of the state
• What is capitalism? Heterodox challenges to mainstream economics
• Post WWII and Keynesian social democratic ideology
• The rise of neoliberalism
• The crash of 2008
• The battle for new ideas and the question of globalisation
• Critical Realism Ideology as a material force in economics
• Post autistic economics
• Real World Economic Outlook
• Review

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Varoufakis, Y. et al  (2011) Modern Political Economics 

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

  • Dupre, J. (2003 September). Human Nature and the Limits of Science, OUP 2001. Paperback edition
  • Lawson, T.(2003) Reorienting Economics, Routledge
  • Klein, N.( 2007) The Shock Doctrine, Allan Lane
  • Skidelsky, R. Keynes:The Return of the Master
  • Ravenhill, J. (2005) Global Political Economy OUP
  • Heilbroner, R. L. (1986) The Nature and Logic of Capitalism, Norton
  • Hodgson, G. (2001) How Economics Forgot History, Routledge 

Origin date


Last revision date