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Unit information: Political Economy 2: State, Economy and Society in 2016/17

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Unit name Political Economy 2: State, Economy and Society
Unit code GEOG20110
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Fairbrother
Open unit status Not open

All units in Single Honours Geography Year 1



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 be global in scale, cover hundreds of years of human history, rely heavily on comparative (cross-national) research, and focus on three main substantive topics: political democracy, economic development, and social (in) equality. The major assignment will be a paper describing and then seeking to explain the current political, economic, and social circumstances of a single developing country of each student’s choice. It will give students overviews of the benefits of and rationales for geographic and comparative approaches to political economy; of the long-term historical origins of contemporary spatial variations in political, economic, and social conditions; and of some key current policy debates in these areas.

Part two 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. Through a mix of lectures and seminars 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 two 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. Lastly, the importance of organised labour and the regulation of work will be discussed, paying particular attention to its rise in the post-war period and its present decline in several jurisdictions.

Unit aims: -To introduce students to geographic and cross-national comparative research in political economy, including the benefits of and rationales for such research.

-To impress upon students the cross-national variation in levels of democracy, development, and equality. -To give students an opportunity and incentive to learn about the political, economic, and social conditions of a country very different from their own. -To familiarise students with what the social sciences currently believe to be the causes of development (versus underdevelopment), democracy (versus authoritarianism), and equality (versus inequality). -To make students appreciate the complexity of the issues of development, democracy, and equality, including the difficulties of defining, measuring, and assessing them. -To make students aware of the differential political economic trajectories of the "First", "Second", and "Third Worlds" through the twentieth century. -To expose students to contemporary social science work on key political economic trends and challenges of recent decades—particularly neoliberalism, globalisation, formal political democratisation, the rise of several large Asian nations, post-socialist transitions, and the problems of sub-Saharan Africa. -To introduce students to contemporary theoretical and empirical debates in labour geography. -To help students develop the ability to pose purposeful questions within these debates and to cultivate intellectual curiosity about their context. -To foreground the political economic geography principles outlined in the Year 3 Political Economy unit (GEOG36000) through research orientated case studies that detail the social processes, structures and causes underlying capitalist development.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On completion of this Unit students should be able to:

  • Discuss major causes of spatial (particularly cross-national) variation in political democracy, economic development, and social (in)equality.

On completion of this Unit students should be able to:

  • Discuss major causes of spatial (particularly cross-national) variation in political democracy, economic development, and social (in)equality.
  • Understand some of the challenges in defining, measuring, assessing, and fostering democracy, development, and social equality.
  • Locate and make use of documentary resources on the political, economic, and social conditions of remote countries.
  • Critically assess contemporary theoretical and empirical debates on the topics of work and employment
  • 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

Teaching will consist of two one-hour lectures per week. In some weeks, a few minutes of film will be shown—an element which has proven to be effective at making the material more appealing to the students. In one week there will be some small group discussion.

Assessment Information

Take-home essay due in Week 6 (max. 2000 words) 50% Take-home essay due in Week 12 (max. 2000 words) 50%

Reading and References

Acemoglu, Daron, and James A. Robinson. 2006. “Paths of Economic and Political Development.” Pp. 673-692 in Barry R. Weingast and Donald A. Wittman (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Political Economy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Birdsall, Nancy, Dani Rodrik, and Arvind Subramanian. 2005. “How to Help Poor Countries.” Foreign Affairs 84[4]: 136-152. Castree, N, Coe, N, Ward, K and Samers, M (2004) Spaces of Work: Global Capitalism and the Geographies of Labour, London: Sage Diamond, Jared. 1997. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York: Norton. Frieden, Jeffry A. 2006. Global Capitalism: Its Fall and Rise in the Twentieth Century. New York: Norton. Harvey, David. 2005. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. McDowell, L (2003) Redundant Masculinities? Employment Change and White Working Class Youth, Oxford: Blackwell Peck, J (1996) Work-Place: The Social Regulation of Labour Markets, London: Guilford

Additional required readings will be available online and/or on Blackboard. Further reading recommendations will be listed in the course handbook that will be circulated in the first lecture of each half unit.