IR454      Half Unit
Governing International Political Economy: Lessons from the Past for the Future

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr James Morrison 95 ALD 1.14


This course is available on the MSc in International Political Economy, MSc in International Political Economy (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in International Political Economy (Research) and MSc in International Relations. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

History has always been central to the study and practice of international political economy. The most influential scholars and practitioners of international political economy have repeatedly turned to history both to explain, and to offer a fresh perspective on, the great challenges of their day. This course is designed to help students cultivate that invaluable skill and habit of mind.

Proceeding from the seventeenth century to the present, it examines:

- seminal theorists' particular treatments of international political economy

- the ongoing, timeless debate between these theorists

- the major shifts in the global economic order

- the interaction between theories and policy in each shift 

The course begins with mercantilism and the ‘age of empires.’ It then explores the great critics of mercantilism—Adam Smith and David Hume—and the relationship between their critique and the revolutions in IPE that followed. It goes on to analyse the rise of so-called ‘English’ political economy and the ‘First Era of Globalisation’ in the 19th Century.

The course then pivots to consider two major challenges to this hegemony of thought and practice. First, it traces the development of socialism from an internal critique through the writings of Marx & Engels to an instantiated alternative system in the early Soviet Union. Second, it considers the German Historical School’s return to mercantilism—and Europe’s concomitant return to imperial rivalry in the early twentieth century.

This brings the course into the interwar period. There, the course considers the battles that raged among liberals in their attempts to resuscitate the classical IPE tradition in the wake of the First World War. It looks at the Progressive and ‘institutionalist’ response, on the one side, and FA Hayek’s ‘Austrian’ response on the other. This leads into an examination of both the ideas and influence of JM Keynes. A selection of Keynes’s writings is coupled with analysis of the interwar collapse of IPE that consumed him—and the world. The course then transitions into a discussion of the Anglo-American Postwar Order, of which Keynes was a major architect.

Finally, the course turns the modern era. It compares the rival approaches taken by ‘developing’ countries in the postwar era: import-substitution-industralisation and export-oriented-industrialisation. It concludes by examining the tension between the apparent ascent of ‘neoliberalism’ within economic theory alongside critiques from ‘non-economic’ perspectives: environmental, egalitarian, and otherwise.


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the LT.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6, in line with departmental policy. 

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay and 2 presentations in the LT.

Indicative reading

Thomas Munn. England's Treasure by Forraign Trade. 

Adam Smith. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.

Alexander Hamilton. Report on Manufactures.

Karl Marx. Communist Manifesto.

JM Keynes. General Theory of Employment, Interest, & Money.

Raúl Prebisch, “Commercial Policy in the Underdeveloped Countries."


Essay (100%, 2000 words) in the LT.

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2014/15: Unavailable

Average class size 2014/15: Unavailable

Controlled access 2014/15: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication