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Ben Clift - Teaching

Theories and Issues in International Political Economy

This is the core module on the Masters Programme in International Political Economy. There are three main elements to this module. The first part is an historical overview of key features of international capitalism. You need to know something about these developments before you start to think more deeply about IPE and the insight it offers. This historical section covers the origins of industrial capitalism and market society, and the evolution and dynamics of the first 'World Economy' in the 19th Century. It then proceeds to explore the causes and consequences of the interwar crisis and the construction of the post-war Bretton Woods order. The final historical section explores the evolution and dynamics of the most recent period of restructuring within the global political economy in the period since the collapse of Bretton woods in the 1970s. In the second section the module briefly considers metatheory in IPE. Meta-theory refers to the primary assumptions that underpin all specific theories. Classes then address a spectrum of IPE theories (these may also be referred to as approaches, or sometimes as schools of thought), including liberal, realist, Marxist, critical, constructivist and feminist theories. Each theory will be approached by addressing a consistent set of themes and issues central to IPE analysis. The last part of the module considers a range of substantive issues in IPE in light of the historical and theoretical learning undertaken earlier in the module. These include trade, production, global finance, the role of state(s), regionalism, and the environment.

This module is not like an Economics class, is non-quantitative, and takes an academic rather than vocational approach to the subject matter. It is International Political Economy because the module is is concerned with developing a critical understanding of how a particular social order works – and with how it might work, how it should work.

Notes from my Workshop on avoiding plagiarism are available here.

States and Markets: An Introduction to International Political Economy

Ben developed this second year IPE module from scratch in 2004. It has been running successfully in the department ever since, with a variety of PAIS colleagues contributing to teaching it. Political economy as an intellectual tradition was already vibrant in the 18th & 19th Centuries, with the disputes between the classical liberal political economic vision of Adam Smith and David Ricardo, the Neo-Mercantilist or Nationalist political economy of Friedrich List, and the radical critique of Karl Marx. International Political Economy (IPE) seeks to revitalise this tradition. The field of IPE explores the production, reproduction and distribution of power and wealth within world order. IPE is concerned with the relationship between what people typically think of as the separate spheres of politics and economics. This module explores why, how and with what consequences economic and political life are intertwined in the contemporary world. The starting point of IPE theorising and analysis is the recognition that world order, and the institutions which make it up, need to be studied as a complex whole in order to understand the interrelationships between the political and economic aspects. IPE is also interested in the power relationships that characterise the broader political and economic context in which particular institutions are embedded. Political economy focuses attention on the interaction of states and markets, and on the interplay of structures and the role of agency. States and Markets exploits considerable research expertise in the department in this area. The course is team taught - with staff contributing on themes and issues which marry closely with their areas of research interest and expertise.

The aim of the module is to introduce students to the key concepts and theoretical debates in IPE, conceived as the application of the insights of political economy in a comparative way, and explicitly situated within an international context. The module also aims to explore the relationships between states and markets through a study of key theories, issues and cases in political economy. A further aim of the module is to develop awareness of competing theoretical perspectives on IPE, and to evaluate the contributions of theoretical approaches and perspectives in political economy to understanding key issues and phenomena in the contemporary international political economy. Accordingly, term one covers the classic theorists of political economy. Term two explores themes and issues – through a range of country / region cases, selected according to the expertise of those engaged in the team teaching of the course.

PO961 - Doctoral Thesis Writing in Politics and International Studies

Ben also periodically teachings the Doctoral Thesis Writing in Politics and International Studies core PhD trainng module for all first year PhD students. The module's weekly sessions lead to the First Year PhD Review process.
It has thee main aims:

1. It seeks to provide you with the essential tools to navigate the early PhD writing process, in particular with view to being able to clearly communicate your PhD research and visualize it as a single integrated piece of academic work that makes an original contribution to knowledge. Sessions during the Autumn Term are thus centred on key issues and challenges in writing a
PhD thesis, as well as on building towards the compulsory progression point in the Summer Term.

2. The module is also designed to serve as a forum in which incoming PhD students can discuss their experience of the research process. While everyone’s PhD will be different, you will experience common problems and common anxieties. Everybody will be in the same boat in this regard, and having a timetabled session each week to enable you to talk through the
issues currently frustrating you. I am here to lead those discussions, hopefully providing you with the sense that you are not alone in having to take both time and effort to think your way effectively into your PhD project. You will quickly learn that the more you talk to your fellow PhD students about the difficulties you are encountering the more that you will be able to move towards shared solutions. This is an approach to doctoral study that will serve you well
throughout the whole lifetime of your degree programme.

3. Finally, you will also learn how to talk about your work authoritatively in public. This will build towards your presentation to the First Year Review panel. In addition, it will enable you to approach the task of presenting your ideas in academic forums with confidence at wider academic conferences.
By the end of the module students should be able to:
• Operate sophisticated searches on the university computer/library systems as the basic backdrop to successful research.
• Identify and defend the underlying research question on which their PhD will be based, understanding how this will enable them to make a distinctive contribution to their chosen sub-field.
• Understand the relevance of the principal methods used in political research for their own thesis before selecting the most useful to advance their individual research design.
• Talk authoritatively about the content of their research and be able to justify their ideas in the presence of constructive questioning.
• Debate the merits of different approaches to the same research question with their peers as a means of providing one another with on-going research support.