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Debt, Money, and Global Sustainable Development

Dr Nick Bernards

Module Leader

Optional - Final year only
Term 1
10 x 1 hour lectures
10 x 1 hour seminars
1 x Mini-conference (5 hours)

Available to students from other departments by application

Principal Aims

Debt, money, and financial markets are increasingly central to the prospects of and challenges for global sustainable development, both on a global scale and in terms of individual relations of poverty. Financial markets, however, are often presented as a highly complex and technical subject best left to the ‘experts’. The primary aim of this module is to help de-mystify the roles that money, debt, and finance play in processes of sustainable development.

The module emphasises the impacts of monetary and financial systems and relations of credit and indebtedness on the everyday lives of people in the global south and on possibilities for sustainable development. In doing so, the module seeks to help students develop nuanced and critical perspectives on the ways in which money and financial markets impact on poverty, poverty reduction, and development.

Principal Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to demonstrate:

1) A nuanced understanding of the ways in which debt, money, and financial markets create and constrain possibilities for sustainable development

2) An understanding of the social, cultural, and political implications of ‘technical’ questions in global finance

3) A thorough understanding of, and ability to apply, cross-disciplinary theoretical and conceptual perspectives on debt, money, and finance

4) An ability to think critically about key contemporary debates about the role of money, debt, and finance in sustainable development

5) The research skills necessary to develop an informed and insightful analysis of a particular case study relevant to the module

6) Strong writing and communication skills, particularly an ability to present research clearly and concisely, as well as engage constructively with peers’ research


Part I: Basic Concepts and Approaches to Money and Debt

Week 1: Basic Concepts

Week 2: Money and Debt as Social Relations

Part II: Sustainable Development in Financial Times: Global Issues and Perspectives

Week 3: Debt, Crises, and the Politics of Development

Week 4: Tax Justice, Illicit Financial Flows, and the Offshore World
Week 5: Financing Nature I: Financial Markets and the Governance of Climate Change
Week 6: Financing Nature II: Land Grabs, Commodity Speculation, and Agriculture

Part III: Poverty and Indebtedness: Everyday Issues and Perspectives

Week 7: From Microcredit to Financial Inclusion

Week 8: Technology to the Rescue? Fintech and Poverty Finance
Week 9: Housing, Slums, and Shelter Finance
Week 10: Financing Nature Redux: Index Insurance and the Politics of Weather Risk


Mini-conference Presentation (20%)

Mini-conference Discussant (15%)

Research Paper Proposal (500 words) (15%)

Reseach Paper (3000 words) (50%)