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Politics of Global Finance (PO919)


Topics covered

The following is an indicative list of topics; the precise seminar content and order may change slightly from year to year.

  • The Gold Standard and the politics of inter-war finance
  • The post-World War II Bretton Woods regime
  • The politics of financial competition, innovation and volatility
  • Power and authority in the governance of global finance
  • The role of the IMF and World Bank
  • The role of the rating agencies
  • Central banks
  • The Euro and single currencies in general
  • Financial theory as politics
  • International capital mobility and its implications for states
  • Financial crises and competing understandings of them
  • The politics of banks
  • Prospects for regulation of global finance
  • The rise of emerging markets
  • Islamic finance

Global finance is big business. Prior to the onset of financial crisis in 2007 around $2 trillion was traded in the foreign exchange markets each day. In this world order, capital moves from one location to another increasingly unhindered by government controls. Bond rating agencies issue judgments on the bonds of foreign governments, affecting the cost of borrowing and the lives of millions. Whether this world should continue in this form after the financial crisis is a question motivating many observers and participants.

Programme content

This module examines the world of global finance from a political perspective. Through the study of a variety of contemporary issues, an examination of the history of finance and ongoing discussion about the theories competing to explain it, the module enables students to recognise the profoundly political nature of financial relationships and to understand how finance interacts with other areas of life in both public and private spheres. The module will focus to some extent on the origins, analysis and consequences of financial crises in a world of international capital mobility. The class does NOT address issues of aid or development.

This class is organized around weekly two-hour student-based seminars. The opening sessions look back at key events and periods in the history of finance. This allows us both to understand how today’s politics of global finance came to look as it does, and to see how contemporary problems often have clear precedents in the past. The rest of the course is devoted to the study of a variety of issue areas in the politics of both public and private finance, including European monetary integration, central bank independence, crisis and regulation (please note that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is not covered in this module). In amongst these issues are two weeks devoted to giving students a grounding in the central theoretical questions in the politics of global finance.


Whilst we do reflect at length on the role of economic theories in constituting the politics of finance, this is not an economics module, and so students seeking a technical or non-political education in finance may not be suited to it. Informed by a mix of international political economy and social theory, the module instead focuses on the analysis of global financial politics, with fundamental questions about power, hegemony, social control and the evolving dynamics of capitalism amongst its central concerns. If you are interested in these aspects of global finance, then it is the right module for you.

Module Director:
Tim Sinclair

CATS: 40

Sample reading list (PDF Document)