EUROSCI Network course: Global political economy

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Economic development and international relations

Aims and scope: 

Understanding economic development is essential for avoiding conflict and grasping the opportunities of co-operation with emerging markets in Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe, or Asia. Whether you aim at working for an investment fund in the City of London, as an engineer in a car plant in Brazil, or creating your own agribusiness or tourism startup in Ukraine or Indonesia, this course will provide you with the empirical information and analytical tools you need for understanding the economies of the countries in which you will operate. It will also help you if you intend to become a diplomat in Afghanistan, a missionary for a Church in Latin America, a volunteer at a major development NGO in Africa, a Frontex coast guard on the Mediterranean, a policeman on the streets of Milan, or a ransom negotiator on the coast of Somalia. But even if you feel outside any of those fancy groups of people, understanding the process of globalisation and North-South relations may help you understand why your trainers are made in Vietnam, why your current firm is being relocated to China, why the newest variant of a virus originated in India, or why the vaccine that protects your parents was developed by Turkish immigrants in Germany.

This course is structured in three parts. The first part will introduce you to the field of economic development, which lies at the basis of the North-South differences that underpin the global political economy. Traditionally one of the most lively and challenging areas in economics, recent advances in economic theory and econometric methods have allowed development economists to review some age-old questions. Why do some countries grow faster than others? Is there a poverty trap? How can we explain rural-urban migrations in the context of urban unemployment? Do poor people in developing countries make the wrong decisions about consumption, work or investment? Why is credit more expensive in developing economies? The second part of the course will focus on North-South relations and will introduce you to some of the most current issues in international affairs and global political economy. Does free trade prevent the industrialisation of developing countries? Does it undermine environmental and social standards? Why is the EU-Mercosur trade deal so diffficult to ratify? Why does development aid not target the world's poorest? Are big powers pushing loans onto developing countries? Will a more open refugee policy improve the conditions of migrants that cross the Mediterranean? Why do advanced democracies seldom fight each other? Finally, the concluding part of this course will deal with world order and progress, and analyse the current state of affairs and evolution of important global issues such as human rights and the spread of democracy, peace and security, terrorism, world economic growth, the erradication of poverty and the reduction of inequality, climate change and environmental protection, or public health. Are post-WW2 organisations such as the UN, the WTO or the WHO still relevant today? Is the world a safer place to live? Has globalisation improved the standard of living of the world as a whole? This course will introduce you to the most recent advances in global political economy and give you a feel of the current debates, acquainting you with new ideas and new ways of answering fundamental questions about economic development and how it affects international conflict and co-operation, world order and progress.

This course is aimed at students of business, engineering, international relations, or any other students that need to work with developing economies, or simply want to understand how current international affairs affect their daily lives. No prior knowledge of economics is required, but you will need a working knowledge of English and access to a broadband internet connection for taking this course.


This course will be based on a combination of lectures, seminars and online written discussions. Evaluation will be continuous based on a point system that takes into acount both the quantity and quality of student participation throuout the entire duration of the course. Besides constant feedback from teachers and teaching assistants, students will be introduced to peer review.

Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) is an approach for learning content through an additional language (foreign or second), thus learning both the subject and the language simultaneously. This approach to teaching and learning has never featured as strongly on university curricula as it does now. Besides, the great revolution of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has had a tremendous impact on education and on the development of foreign language communication skills in particular. ICT is an ideal platform for developing interactive strategies and methodologies that promote independent learning, peer interaction, and language use for real communicative purposes. In a world where students are digital natives and where broadband connections and mobile-data enabled smartphones are widespread, there is great potential for combining CLIL with ICT. If we add to this the opportunities that international university partnerships and networks offer for student interaction across borders, we have all the necessary ingredients for a successful course.


THE ECONOMIC FOUNDATIONS OF NORTH-SOUTH DIFFERENCES: 1. Introduction to economic development. Concept and measurement. Why study economic development? Which indicator of economic development, GDP per capita or HDI? 2. Economic growth. The Harrod-Domar and the Neoclassical growth models. Which model explains economic growth better in developing countries? Are poor countries catching up? 3. Economic inequality, poverty and development. Is there a poverty trap? Does economic growth increase or reduce inequality? Does inequality help or hinder development? 4. Population and development. The dual economy. Migration. Is there surplus labour in the rural areas of developing countries? Should the governments of developing countries promote rural-urban migration to encourage development? Why is there urban unemployment? 5. Land, labour, capital, and insurance markets. Why is sharecropping so common in developing countries? Why is credit more expensive for the poor? Are poor people too risk averse? 6. Development and democracy. Autocracy. Corruption. Are autocracy and corruption a cause or a consequence of underdevelopment? NORTH-SOUTH CONFLICT AND CO-OPERATION: 7. Principles of international politics. The domestic foundations of foreign policy. Is there a national interest? Are the leaders of the Global North different from those of the Global South when it comes to foreign policy? 8. Trade in goods and services. The WTO. Trade deals. Trade defence. Why does the EU impose anti-dumping duties on India or China? Why is an EU-Mercosur trade deal so difficult to achieve? Why did protection fail to develop a competitive computer industry in Brazil? Why does China protect its technology industry? 9. Foreign direct investment. Investment policy objectives. International fora. Investment deals. Investment facilitation and dispute resolution. Screening third-party investments. Foreign debt. Debt-equity swaps. Is the North pushing loans onto developing countries? Why does the EU protect itself from Chinese investments? 10. Migrations. The American and European migration crises. Asylum policy. Migration control. Co-operation with neighbouring countries. Will migration deals between the US, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador or Mexico work? Why does the EU co-operate with Morocco, Libya or Turkey? Will increased refugee quotas reduce the number of deaths on the Mediterranean? 11. Development policy. Preferential trade deals. Development aid. Why does development aid not focus on the world's poorest? Does development aid promote democracy? 12. Security. Military conflicts. Co-operation agreements. The Common Security and Defence Policy of the EU (Sahel, Central African Republic, Somalia, Libya, Bosnia, Ukraine and Moldova, Georgia, and Palestinian Territories). Why do wars start? Why do countries of the Global North rarely fight each other? WORLD ORDER AND PROGRESS: 13. Human rights and the spread of democracy. Peace and security. Are human rights a luxury good for rich countries alone? Is terrorism rational? Peace without democratisation? 14. World economic growth. The erradication of poverty and the reduction of inequality. Climate change and environmental protection. Public health. Does globalisation reduce inequality? Are the WTO, the World Bank or the WHO still relevant today? Is the world a better place to live now than fifty years ago?

Indicative reading: 

In English: Ray, D. (1998). Development economics. Princeton University Press; Basu, K. (2003). Analytical development economics: the less developed economy revisited. MIT Press; Bueno de Mesquita, B. (2014). Principles of international politics: war, peace, and world order. Sage. In French: Raffinot, M. (2021). Economie du développement, 3e ed. Dunod. In Spanish: Ray, D. (2002). Economía del desarrollo. Antoni Bosch Editor.

Teaching modules: