BASS Sociology and Criminology

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Global Capitalism, Crisis and Revolt

Course unit fact file
Unit code POLI31091
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


1.      Why Marxism?

2.      Value and the circulation of capital

3.      The ‘Globalisation’ of capitalism

4.      Global capitalism and the national state

5.      Global capitalism, production and work

6.      Global capitalism, money and debt

7.      Crisis and the ‘new normal’

8.      Anti-capitalism: who’s revolt is it anyway?

9.      Post-capitalism: a world without capital?

10.  Plenary: Why (not) Marxism?


This unit will introduce students to Marxist theories and analyses of contemporary global capitalism, globalisation, the politics of crisis management, and the politics of revolt and ‘post-capitalism’. Since the crises of the 1970s, notions of the ‘national economy’ - once strongly associated with the Keynesian-Welfare states of the West and the developmental states of the ‘Third World’ - have been rendered practically obsolete by the global restructuring of production, the deregulation of finance and money markets, and the liberalisation of international trade. This much is widely accepted to be the end-result of over three decades of ‘globalisation’ - signalling for many the triumph of liberalism, the free market and the End of History.

This module takes as its starting point the claim that much orthodox social scientific analysis is incapable of comprehending our present condition. In order to make sense of this claim, the module will introduce students to the basics of dialectical theorising, of the Marxian analysis of capital accumulation, and to a relational way of understanding the political economy of ‘the global’ and ‘the national’. It will examine - from a Marxist perspective - why capitalism’s history is necessarily the history of global uneven development; why we have witnessed cyclical crises of increasing depth and intensity since the 1970s; why until only recently there has been a consensus among international organisations and governments as to the promotion of global competitiveness; and why and how this consensus has come to be challenged by a range of actors and ideas – both progressive and reactionary. The course unit will offer students the chance to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of contemporary Marxist scholarship in analytical and political terms.

Knowledge and understanding

Demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of contemporary Marxist literatures and debates on contemporary international political economy.

Intellectual skills

The ability to engage with theoretical texts and analyses of contemporary political, economic and social events. They will also be encouraged to question the veracity not only of non-Marxist approaches to IPE, but also the claims of Marxist scholarship as introduced on the course unit.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Students will be encouraged to exercise and demonstrate their own independent, critical judgement of literature, arguments, and events. The module will foster improved writing, debating, and presentation skills, and the capacity to summarise, criticise and mobilise complex ideas.

Employability skills

See Additional Notes below

Assessment methods

Essay, 2,250 words, 50%

Weekly '3-2-1' Tutorial Preparation, 2,250 words, 50%


Feedback methods

The Convenor will use the 3-2-1 documents submitted by each tutorial group to help structure the tutorial group in a more student-led and ‘bespoke’ fashion, thereby ensuring that the discussion is based on students’ own responses and ideas, and the information they have found, and the questions they have flagged. Since the discussion is therefore structured around the students’ own input, it serves as a valuable means of providing feedback and guidance orally in the tutorial itself and during the tutorial programme, rather than after it has ended.

You will receive feedback on assessed essays in a standard format and within 15 days of the January submission deadline. This will rate your essay in terms of various aspects of the argument that you have presented your use of sources and the quality of the style and presentation of the essay. If you have any queries about the feedback that you have received you should make an appointment to see your tutor. Tutors and Course Convenors also have dedicated office hours when you can meet with him to discuss course unit specific problems and questions

Recommended reading

Preliminary reading:

Bonefeld, W. (2014) Critical Theory and the Critique of Political Economy (London: Continuum).

Bonefeld, W. and J. Holloway (1996) Global Capital, National States and the Politics of Money (Basingstoke: Palgrave).

Cammack, P. (2013) ‘Classical Marxism’, in T. G. Weiss and R. Wilkinson (eds), International Organization and Global Governance (London: Routledge).

Charnock, G., T. Purcell and R. Ribera-Fumaz (2014) The Limits to Capital in Spain: Crisis and Revolt in the European South (Basingstoke: Palgrave), especially Chapter 1.

Harvey, D. (2010) The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism (London: Profile Books).

Smith, N. (2008) Uneven Development: Nature, Capital and the Production of Space, 3rd ed. (University of Georgia Press).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Seminars 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Greig Charnock Unit coordinator

Additional notes

This is a great module for students wishing to develop and demonstrate skills that can be applied in a wide range of different jobs, voluntary roles, internships and work placements.  It could be particularly useful for people considering careers in the civil service, journalism, think tanks, research and policy, and charitable organisations.”

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