Contemporary International Political Economy

School: School of Government and Society
Department: Department of Political Science and International Studies

Final year module

Lecturer: Dr Huw Macartney

Scholars point out that if the crux of a crisis is that change is immanent, it may well be premature to label the 'global financial crisis' and the Eurozone 'crisis' as such. Put differently, this course is focused on addressing one overarching puzzle that can be stated as follows: given the severity of the 'crisis' we are living through why has so little changed? Prior to the global financial crash of 2008 – and following 9/11 – many students tended to be interested in security studies and terrorist organisations.

The study of IPE, as was the case for many informed observers in the 'real world', was characterised by what some have called The Great Complacency. Then came the sub-prime crisis and a series of banking collapses of major global financial institutions. In turn, these collapses and the associated state bailout packages contributed to slowed economic output and turned banking crises into sovereign debt crises. From here, these economic dimensions further exacerbated an unfolding but longstanding political crisis confronting Western states. The legitimacy of neoliberalism was further questioned. In short, governments have struggled not simply to kick-start economic growth, but to contain rising social unrest. And yet, the ideas, actors, practices and institutions that led to the crisis continue – for the most part – to remain to the present day.

In the first half of the course, we will address the theoretical aspect to this lack of change. We will take a fairly comprehensive look at the state of IPE as a discipline to examine what it has or has not had to say as the financial crisis hit. We begin by asking big questions about what theory is, what an academic discipline is, and what role they should or should not play in shaping political and social change. 

In the second half of the course we will apply some of these theoretical insights to empirical case studies (the EU and the UK). This part of the course seeks to examine the resilience of neoliberalism, an important factor explaining the type and degree of continuity and change. To re-emphasise, our overarching aim is to explore the role that a political economy analysis has and should have at the current historical conjuncture.

Learning outcomes

At the end of the module the student should be able to:

  • Demonstrate a sound theoretical understanding of the key conceptual issues relating to globalisation.
  • Apply these to current developments within the international economy.
  • And be able to show awareness of the wider political context of how international political economy shapes global governance

Assessment (from 2018-19)

  • In class case study feedback (formative)
  • 1 x 500 word essay plan + 2 minute recorded  explanatory commentary (25%)
  • 1 x 3,000 word case study (75%)