Political Economy as an intellectual tradition was already vibrant in the 18th & 19th Centuries, with the disputes between Adam Smith’s liberal vision, Mercantilists such as List, and radicals such as Karl Marx. Its starting point is the recognition that social orders, and the institutions which make them up, need to be studied as complex wholes in order to understand the interrelationships between the political and economic aspects. Political economy 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. It is political economy because it is concerned with how a particular social order works –and with how it might work, how it should work.
Political Economy, although a core approach and area of investigation in politics and international studies, does not constitute a single approach. Similarly, International Political Economy (IPE) does not have a clear, universally agreed set of concerns, assumptions, or theoretical underpinnings. It has been variously characterised as a ‘field of inquiry’, ‘set of questions’, an ‘area of investigation’. IPE might be termed a ‘hosting metaphor’ – connoting the exploration of the relationship between power and wealth.
States and Markets conceives of international political economy as the application of the insights of political economy in a comparative way, and explicitly situated within an international context. Term one covers the classic theorists of political economy. Term two explores themes and issues, selected according to the expertise of those engaged in the team teaching of the module. The module is team taught, and exploits considerable research interests amongst many staff in the department. ‘Guest’ lecturers contribute on themes and issues which marry closely with their areas of research interest and expertise.