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Unit information: State, Economy and Society in Geographical Perspective in 2021/22

Unit name State, Economy and Society in Geographical Perspective
Unit code GEOG20005
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Rigg
Open unit status Not open

GEOG10003 Key Concepts in Human and Physical Geography



School/department School of Geographical Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

This unit will introduce students to the geographical study of political economy—that is, to research on spatial variations in politics and economics, and on the sources and consequences of those variations.

Part one of the unit will explore how human struggles to ‘make a living’ simultaneously shape and are shaped by changing political, social and economic environments. It starts by exploring different theoretical perspectives on work, both paid and unpaid. Adopting a primary focus on workers in advanced capitalist economies, it then establishes the theoretical foundations for understanding various divisions of labour. Students will be introduced to both new and old spatial divisions of paid and unpaid labour at the international, urban and household scales. In the context of the newly emerging international division of labour, part one of the unit will examine changing dimensions of work, workers and workplaces. It will also look at the geographies of growing precariousness in the labour market and the impacts of new technologies and changing organisation of workplaces on the labouring body.

Part two of the unit will explore how people ‘make a living’, focusing on the experience of the global South – and more particularly, but not exclusively, the countries of Asia. The lectures will not just consider how people make a living in the global South, but what shapes, and potentially undermines livelihoods, how people respond, how scholars have come to understand, interpret and theorise people’s lives, and how states have attempted to promote ‘development’ and improve people’s lives. The module will utilise close ethnographic readings of conditions in the global south. These will permit engagement with both applied (how do we measure poverty?) and policy (is there an urban bias in development policy) questions, as well as conceptual (what is a household?) and theoretical (is global development in fact a story of underdevelopment?) debates.

Unit aims:

- To introduce students to geographical research in political economy, including the benefits of and rationales for such research. - To give students an opportunity and incentive to learn about the political, economic, and social conditions of the UK and other countries across the global North and South. - To expose students to contemporary social science work on key political economic trends and challenges of recent decades—particularly neoliberalism, globalisation, the rise of several large Asian nations, associated labour market transitions, and the problems of inequality and precarity. - To help students develop the ability to pose purposeful questions within these debates and to cultivate intellectual curiosity about their context.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On completion of this Unit students should be able to:

  1. Discuss major causes of spatial variation in political democracy, economic development, and social (in)equality.
  2. Understand some of the challenges in defining, measuring, assessing, and fostering democracy, development, and social equality.
  3. Locate and make use of documentary resources on the political, economic, and social conditions of different countries.
  4. Critically assess contemporary theoretical and empirical debates on the topics of work and employment
  5. Demonstrate analytical and conceptual skills in their written work

The following transferable skills are developed in this Unit:

  • Written communication
  • Problem solving
  • Lateral, strategic, analytical, and critical thinking
  • Planning and implementing research project

Teaching Information

The unit will be taught through a blended combination of online and, if possible, in-person teaching, including

  • online resources
  • synchronous group workshops, seminars, tutorials and/or office hours
  • asynchronous individual activities and guided reading for students to work through at their own pace

Assessment Information

One 2000-word essay based on material taught in part one of the unit (50%)

One 2000-word essay based on material taught in part two of the unit (50%)

Both assignments test all of the ILOs.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. GEOG20005).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.