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Cover Global Political Economy

2. The Nineteenth-Century Roots of Theoretical Traditions in Global Political Economy  

Matthew Watson

This chapter focuses on the historical origins and the subsequent intellectual lineage of the three core theoretical positions within contemporary global political economy (GPE): realism, liberalism, and Marxism. ‘Textbook GPE’ privileges nineteenth-century understandings of political economy when discussing the pre-history of its own field. This helps explains GPE's treatment of feminist scholarship within the textbooks; feminism remains largely marginalized from textbook GPE, presented as something of a postscript to avoid accusations of it having been omitted altogether rather than being placed centre stage in the discussion. The chapter then looks at how the nineteenth-century overlay operates in textbook GPE. To do so, it makes sense to concentrate in the first instance on the issue that did most to divide nineteenth-century economists: namely, the free trade policies resulting from the general ascendancy of laissez-faire ideology. The most celebrated of the critics, Friedrich List, is treated much more as a dependable authority figure in GPE than he is in the history of economic thought. Indeed, in textbook GPE, the disputes between realist and liberal positions is very often presented initially through an account of List's work, despite the pre-history of liberalism being much the longer of the two.

Chapter

Cover Global Political Economy

1. The Study of Global Political Economy  

John Ravenhill

This chapter provides an overview of the current state of the world economy. The contemporary international economic system is more closely integrated than in any previous era. The global financial crisis and its aftermath provide a clear illustration of the relationship between trade, finance, international institutions, and the difficulties that governments face in coping with the problems generated by complex interdependence. The chapter then traces how the world economy evolved to reach its present state. Before 1945, the spectacular increase in economic integration that had occurred over the previous century was not accompanied by institutionalized governmental collaboration on economic matters. The end of the Second World War marked a significant disjunction: global economic institutions were created, the transnational corporation emerged as a major actor in international economic relations, and patterns of international trade began to change markedly from the traditional North–South exchange of manufactures for raw materials. Since the emergence of global political economy (GPE) as a major subfield of the study of international relations in the early 1970s, GPE scholars have generated an enormous literature that has employed a wide variety of theories and methods. Most introductions to the study of GPE have divided the theoretical approaches to the subject into three categories: liberalism, nationalism, and Marxism.