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Cover Global Political Economy

3. How to think about Global Political Economy  

Benjamin J. Cohen

This chapter examines the question of how we should think about Global Political Economy (GPE), and offers a multitude of theoretical approaches and perspectives. Perspectives can be distinguished from one another along five key dimensions: ontology, agenda, purpose, boundaries, and epistemology. At the most general level, the field is divided between two broad approaches, described as either orthodox or heterodox theoretical perspectives. Orthodox perspectives share a preference for a state-centric ontology, positivism, closed disciplinary boundaries, and rigorous methodology. They may be subdivided into three main variations: liberalism, realism, and constructivism. Heterodox perspectives are less state-centric, agendas are broader and more normative, boundaries are more open, and methodology is less formal. They include a variety of system-level theories, critical theory, and approaches that seek to extend the boundaries of the field in one direction or another. Fundamentally, our thinking about GPE should be ruled by two paramount principles: pragmatism and eclecticism.