Configuring the World: A Critical Political Economy Approach

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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 knowwhere most people live and whether they are richer or poorer. This modulereexamines the patterns of world demographics and economic development.

2. Trust. Underlying all human activity is the concept of trust. At theextreme, the complete absence of trust, individuals fall back on closed circlesof friendship and kinship and they will ‘privatise’ their involvement in publicinstitutions. It the ensuing uncertainty, businesses will cut back theirplanning 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 socialcohesion, 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. Governanceis the channel through which trust is linked to policy outcomes, such as growthand prosperity (and egalitarian policies). Poor institutional qualityundermines trust, which in turn impacts on growth and prosperity. It alsoaffects the ability of states to fulfil their international obligations.

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

6. Globalisation. Over the past half century or more, the World has becomemore interdependent. In the ‘hyperglobalist’ literature this is attributed to areduced role of the state and the victory of market forces. But economicmarkets are political constructions, without which transactions will nothappen.

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

8. The Locus of Control. Despite the focus of so much literature andanalysis on the level of nation states, it is businesses that trade, notstates. And it is international finance, rather than international trade thatis responsible for most of the qualitative transformation of the world economy.

The course will offertwo tracks. One for those following the course and taking the tests and theother for students preparing individual assignments. 




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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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