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In today’s world, politics and economics are inextricably interconnected, but what is the nature of this connectivity? What are the power relationships that shape the world economy today and create new challenges for international institutions facing globalization? What makes some countries wealthier than others? Do we face cultural diversity or fragmentation? Does the type of governance effect economic development and social change or is it the other way around? How do we measure it and how trustworthy is the data? These issues and many more will be examined in this course along with up-to-date sources and biting criticism.

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This course is part of the Specialization track 'The Challenges in Global Affairs', which contains three courses and a capstone project. The courses do not have to be taken in any particular order. 

1. Configuring the World. What do we know of the world? Mostly we know where most people live and whether they are richer or poorer. This module reexamines the patterns of world demographics and economic development.

2. Trust. Underlying all human activity is the concept of trust. At the extreme, the complete absence of trust, individuals fall back on closed circles of friendship and kinship and they will ‘privatise’ their involvement in public institutions. It the ensuing uncertainty, businesses will cut back their planning perspectives and societies will start to fragment.

3. Inequality and Fragmentation. Cultural differences can enrich societies, but under different circumstances, they also serve to undermine social cohesion, and weaken the foundations of trust.  Extremes in income distribution, whether geographically or individually, may also have negative effects for society as a whole.

4. Governance. Governance is the channel through which trust is linked to policy outcomes, such as growth and prosperity (and egalitarian policies). Poor institutional quality undermines trust, which in turn impacts on growth and prosperity. It also affects the ability of states to fulfil their international obligations.

5. Economic Development and Social Change. Helping to promote economic development in other countries has been an international concern since the end of the second World War. Having seen decades of  failure of development aid to close the income gaps, the current orthodoxy is prioritizing the implementation of market oriented institutional reform.

6. Globalisation. Over the past half century or more, the World has become more interdependent. In the ‘hyperglobalist’ literature this is attributed to a reduced role of the state and the victory of market forces. But economic markets are political constructions, without which transactions will not happen.

7. (International) Institutions. The globalized economy is controlled and regulated by a network of international organizations. There is some debate about the extent to which they serve to modify state behavior, and it is also important to reflect that  they are also reflect the international power balance.

8. The Locus of Control. Despite the focus of so much literature and analysis on the level of nation states, it is businesses that trade, not states. And it is international finance, rather than international trade that is responsible for most of the qualitative transformation of the world economy.

The course will offer two tracks. One for those following the course and taking the tests and the other for students preparing individual assignments. 



  • - Faculty of Humanities


Universiteit Leiden
Leiden University is one of Europe's foremost research universities. This prominent position gives our graduates a leading edge in applying for academic posts and for functions outside academia. Leiden University is the oldest university in the Netherlands. It was founded in February 1575, as a gift from William of Orange to the citizens of Leiden after they had withstood a long siege by the Spanish. Our motto is: Praesidium Libertatis — Bastion of Liberty.



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