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The Global Political Economy of the Household (PO997)


Topics covered

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

  • Introduction: What does it mean to focus on the household in IPE?
  • Early debates: From Engels to the new home economics
  • The state, social relations of reproduction and global householding
  • Cultures of Domesticity and 'good' motherhood
  • A global political economy of sex and the family: heteronormativity and the family
  • Household finance and 'crisis'
  • Domestic labour, marriage and migration: Asian perspectives
  • Resistance politics: Organizing household workers
  • Gender and household insecurity: The political economy of (domestic) violence against women

Why do studies of the global political economy consistently overlook the household? This question is all the more puzzling given the role that household debt and housing finance played in 2008’s global financial crisis; the extent to which production within global supply chains is undertaken by home-based workers; the role that unpaid household labour plays in shoring up the productive economy; and, the emergence of global systems of migration based on the movement of mainly women to take up employment as domestic workers. This module, then, asks students to consider how to incorporate a focus on the household into studies of the global political economy.

Programme content

Part one of the module introduces students to the main theoretical approaches to the study of the political economy of the household. This section, which will draw upon a range of theoretical literatures and illustrative case studies, will provide students with a ‘toolkit’ of ideas for thinking about and analysing the role of the household in IPE. Theories covered will include classical political economy approaches; (neo)liberal understandings of household bargaining; recent writings focussed on the political econom(ies) of care, reproduction and global householding; and, writings that present the household as a site for the reproduction of ideas about gender roles and sexuality.


Part two is more case study focused. This section of the module covers four discrete topic areas that illustrate the ways in which households matter to the study of the global political economy in relation to the following: (a) finance and the impact of the global financial crisis on households; (b) migration – especially for domestic work and marriage; (c) resistance and strategies for organizing home-based and household workers; and,(d) how the global political economy serves to reproduce structures of violence within the household. Throughout the course, students will be encouraged to examine how the political economy of the household takes shape in the context of both the global North and the global South.

Module Director:
Juanita Elias

CATS: 20 (term 2)

Sample reading list (PDF Document)