Multimedia Course
Global Political Economy

Welcome to the multimedia course "Global Political Economy: How the World Works?"

This 16 session course has 153 slides with information and notes and is narrated by Jeffrey Harrod who has taught and written about international political economy for several decades. The lectures cover the material found at universities in the subject of “international political economy”. It is not a basic course, however. Rather it is a realistic look at the standard topics of investment, trade, finance, migration and global governance in an attempt to show “how the world works”.

You can use the lectures in four ways:

  1. if you listen to all the lectures and examine the slides in sequence it will provide a complete course on international political economy;
  2. you may enter a block of lectures with the special themes of Theory, Investment, Finance, Trade, Labour and Migration and Global Governance;
  3. by entering a specific lecture which is of interest as shown by the lecture summary;
  4. by selecting a slide and moving directly into a lecture. The 153 slides in the lectures have titles and numbers so by consulting the list of lectures and slides you can go to that lecture, select the slide and hear the relevant commentary.
  5. Theory
    • Lecture 1: Global Political Economy: How the World Works?
      • This lecture introduces the lecturer and his background, the nature of the course and how to use it and navigate around the 16 sessions. The final part is devoted to a short discussion on the meaning of international political economy. Then follow some illustrations how global political economy can add a dimension to the conventional and media discourse explanations of contemporary national and international events and contribute to an understanding of “how the world works”.

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    • Lecture 2: Theory: The Global Level Problem
      • This is the first of two lectures sketching theories, which are relevant to global political economy. After defining the scope of global political economy, it is emphasised that the core theories are essentially based on classical writers who were concerned with either the individual nation, or a much more restricted world than with the contemporary situation. Focussed international theories are weak and scarce except for the more developed 19th-century theories of imperialism. Global level theories are in their infancy. The session ends with sketching the concepts and subject areas which are relevant and which make global political economy a multidisciplinary and eclectic study.

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    • Lecture 3. Theory: Imperialism Then and Now
      • In lecture 2, it was suggested that current theories of global political economy at the international level are weak and that the 19th and early 20th century theories of imperialism were the most developed and able to deal with transactions between societies and peoples. This lecture considers the theories of imperialism. The elements of these theories are examined, including the reason for foreign expansion and the difficulties of displaced power demands. The problems of imperial dysfunction, the demand of hegemonic powers to impose their models of political economy make these earlier theorists relevant in the 21st century. In conclusion, a sketch of global realism and neo-materialism as two analytical tools is provided.

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    Investment
    • Lecture 4. Models of Political Economy
      • The purpose of this lecture is to introduce some structural characteristics of the global political economy. The first of these is the difference in size of the national units of the global economy, which has been an enduring feature for the past century. The current changes may create new poles but do not alter the basic structure centred on the size of the USA economy. Other characteristics include the relatively low dependency on trade of some important political economies and conversely the high level of energy dependency of some of the largest economies. The size and power of multinational corporations in comparison with non-governmental and inter-governmental organisations is also seen as a continuing structural factor. The final aspect is the number of extant models of national political economies and their reduced number in the last quarter of the 20th century. Different models of political economy produce different income distributions and other social factors. The difference in national income distribution between the nations adhering to the Anglo-American neo-liberal model and nations with other models is discussed as a key generator of politics and as the material underpinning of international relations.

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    • Lecture 5. Investment: Adventures Abroad
      • This lecture examines the concept of "foreign direct investment" used by economists to describe the investment of multinational corporations in countries outside their headquarters. The return to investment of the stocks held in the global south is discussed. An examination of the data produced shows in which countries the stocks of foreign investment are kept. This raises the question of the importance of stocks of investment within the political idea of" national Interest". Political risks to foreign investment are one of the areas where politics is discussed directly and openly in relation to multinational investment. The components of what makes a favourable "investment climate" are examined and the consideration that investment climates may be created directly or indirectly by corporate intervention with or without the support of relevant states. The analytical value of stocks and flows of foreign investment in international relations and politics concludes the session.

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    • Lecture 6. Investment: Corporate Delivery Vehicles
      • This is the first of two lectures, which consider the nature, and power of the contemporary corporation. This lecture considers the corporation as an organisation, which may or may not have international activities or power. Data for corporate size and power compared with states is provided. It is then argued that the trend to concentration which has resulted in a small number of dominant corporations in each sector has weakened the utility of classical theories of economics and capitalism. The session ends with a consideration of possible theories of corporate behaviour and, in particular, organisation theory.

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    • Lecture 7. Investment: Corporate Power and Weaker States
      • This lecture continues the examination of the contemporary corporation by focussing on its power at two levels - at the level of the headquarter state and at the global level. Available statistics which can be used as indicators of power are presented. Then the argument, is made that the corporation should be seen as an institution of the 21st century as it has circumvented restrictions which could have arisen from the classical view of the market. This development of the past 30 years has weakened the headquarter state and provided greater power at the global level. Finally, the direct and indirect power of the corporation is considered as well as its role in global governance.

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    Finance
    • Lecture 8. Finance: Money, Finance and Politics
      • This is the first of the two lectures on the global transaction of finance. The first part of the lecture attempts to demystify the complex world of finance arguing that at the base there are some rather simple political relationships. The political aspects of exchange rates and the intervention of states to manipulate the outcomes of trading and financial transactions through exchange rates are discussed. Then focus is placed on the politics of lending and borrowing which is considered to be at the core of the politics of global finance. The lecture concludes with the brief consideration of three recent cases involving debt and austerity

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    • Lecture 9. Finance: Debt and the Power of Creditors
      • This is the second of two lectures on the global transaction of finance. The focus of this lecture is on the power which is secured by creditors through the holding of external sovereign debt. The first part of the lecture attempts to describe the basics of the relationship and illustrates the contemporary issue of debt and austerity through some examples in recent history. The second part of the lecture illustrates the problems by examining the history of other sovereign external debt in the 1980's and 1990's with special reference to the IMF programmes of structural adjustment. The argument is made the IMF acted as a debt collector for investment banks and insisted on a model of political economy conducive to debt repayment. The lecture concludes with highlighting the political problems with the impact of the current global financial power.

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    Trade
    • Lecture 10. Goods: Trade: The Ricardian Myth
      • This is the first of two lectures on trade. The first part is concerned with showing that trade is a power and political relationship and not as usually presented as a benign and neutral transaction. The source of this latter prevailing belief is traced to flaws and an assumption in trade theory as symbolised by the classical trade theorist David Ricardo. A schema of a power model rather than an exchange model is presented. The last part attempts to recount how the concentration of corporations in different sectors and national bilateral trade agreements have undermined the believed liberal trading arrangements. The system then begins to move towards managed trade and the reinsertion of the state and thus to bargaining and politics.

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    • Lecture 11. Goods: Trade as Power
      • This second lecture on trade looks at the key variables of trade power - trade dependency, trading partners and resource dependency - especially energy. These three show the imbalances, which produce trade power held by the dominant political economies and/or multinational corporations. The relationship between trade policy and the nature of political regimes demonstrates the importance of trade as a precursor or indicator of the internal political positions. Finally, some contemporary developments indicate the growing use of trade power by multinational corporations and their associated states.

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    Labour
    and
    Migration
    • Lecture 12. People: Cheaper Labour
      • This is the first lecture concerning the global transaction involving people and labour. This session is devoted to the Issue of "cheaper labour" and begins by considering the many current arguments about cheaper labour and their accuracy and in particular the nature of some multinational corporations' interest in labour cost . The basics of labour cost are explained. In the global political economy, it is not only wages, which attract trade but also reduced cost in worker health and safety and other indirect compensations. The session ends with a review of the attempts to reduce labour exploitation in the global political economy.

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    • Lecture 13. People: Migrants and their Money
      • This is the second lecture concerning the global transaction involving people and labour. This session is about migrants and migrant labour. Two approaches are taken. The first, the human capital approach that illuminates that migration is a material transfer from the labour exporting country to the labour importing country. The second is the sociology of work approach in which the migrant is seen as socially disadvantaged labour unable to secure higher wages or better working condition. This situation results in a net gain for direct employers of migrants but a possible loss for the local low-waged. This situation is important to political risk analysis. The session ends with the other important transaction from migrants - their remittances to the home country. These flows have been important in recent years and have altered the importance of the migrant in the global political economy.

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    Global
    Governance
    • Lecture 14. Global Governance: Sectoral Power
      • This is the first of two lectures on global governance. In this session, the less conventional view of global governance is taken by focussing on power and governance in global sectors both industrial and service. After explaining this approach, the nature of sectors and the various ways that they can be analysed via realism and regime theory some case studies are presented. Three case studies are considered: energy and oil is shown as a structural characteristic of global governance; an historic case study the raw material asbestos is shown as a regime dealing with a dangerous substance; and the contemporary cement sector as an illustration of the deep involvement of a sector in political objectives in a variety of societies.

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    • Lecture 15. Global Governance: State and Private Authority
      • The second of two lectures on global governance. The lecture is divided into Global Governance 1 and Global Governance 2. Global Governance 1 was the network of inter-state organisations created in the 1940s but which was weakened after 1980 when it began to undermine material interest and power of major states. It was replaced by global governance 2 based on a network of private authority in which the corporation is dominant. However, this system allowed the growth of sub-state entities other than the corporation and currently makes a regime based global governance with uneven levels of impact.

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    • Lecture 16. Conclusion: The Last Word
      • This is the concluding presentation. In May 2010 a Spanish ex-prime minister claimed that a financial power exists which threatens representative government. This short lecture considers how true this is and what has changed since the 1980s. Emphasising the process of border deregulation the contradictions of the current situation are examined noting that theoretically and intellectually there are few guiding principles at the global level. The principle contradiction is that to support border deregulation and therefore global access for trade and investment greater force will be needed to minimally sustain the universally weakened state.

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    Viewing Options

    Different ways of viewing and listening to the lectures are available on the right of the lecture screens which enable you to vary the size of the slide or the video of the lecturer. You can, for example, see the slide and listen to the commentary as voice-over without a video of the lecturer.

    By placing the cursor over the “I” for information on the left of the screen you can see the description of the lecture.

    With this information and these tools you should be able to navigate directly to issue, topic, area or information you need without being frustrated by material which you do not find relevant.

    This course is provided free under the creative commons license.

    Creative Commons License