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2022/23 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

PIED5528M Capitalism in Practice

30 creditsClass Size: 80

Module manager: Dr Owain Williams

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

Capitalism in Practice focuses on a number of essential transnational economic sectors and firms and their centrality to sustainable development, the environment and human security. This course looks at how transnational capitalism operates in the agriculture and food sectors; in pharmaceuticals and healthcare; in international finance; in energy; as well as the informal and gig economies. How do we approach firms and markets and with what theoretical, conceptual and empirical tools? Students will examine how firms and markets have interacted with states, regulation, law and governance, in determining social power relations and incomes and profits, and thus life chances and trajectories. Sectors and markets are important, and transnational firms are key agencies for understanding globalization and power in the international system We bring the world of business, big and small, more squarely into the teaching of Global Political Economy, and illustrate how it produces and reproduces power asymmetries, economic and social inequalities, social harms, and global insecurities in different regions and social contexts.


The module will begin by studying globalisation and the integration of different regions into a global capitalist world system and economy. Students will discuss from a GPE perspective every-day capitalism, from boardroom and trade floors to oil fields, and in the factory, farm or hospital. Students will then approach issues and sectors- based studies via analysis of contemporary capitalism and the firms, agents, professions, markets, value chains and investment strategies that characterise vital sectors which span the North and the South. They will receive training on how to analyse relevant data. The global sectors covered include food and agriculture, energy, health and pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, energy banking and finance, water and sanitation, energy, and the digital sectors, and the informal economies Students will learn to analyse key sectoral dynamics and the relationship between commerce and corporations and outcomes for countries, communities and regions.

Students will develop an understanding of the key sectors via many of the negative impacts and ‘global challenges’ that global capitalism and markets generate, such as disease burdens, pollution, inequalities, issues of access, dispossession, biodiversity loss; as well examining more positive claims for growth, development, efficiencies and choice, including new agendas such as de-growth, the Sustainable Development Goals, and the Green and Blue Economies.

Learning outcomes
Major sources of secondary data from multilateral and business studies databases and how to use it to provide evidence on firms, markets and sectors

Critical theories of firms, markets, market power, and dynamics and strategies of dominant transnational firms.

Knowledge of six key sectors of the global economy: food and agriculture; energy; finance; health and pharmaceuticals; the gig economy and informal sector; and a range of knowledge intensive sectors surrounding IT, media and services.

Understanding of the multilateral institutions and governance arrangements that interact with these sectors and the theories of regulation and institutionalism that surround capitalism in practice.

Sites of resistance and alternatives to current ways of organising production and consumption, sites of resistance and corporate power, and alternatives as part of broader picture of emerging postcapitalist futures.


Analysing the Corporation and Key Sectors: Firms, Markets and Global Challenges.
Understanding the Development of Markets and the Firm.
Methodologies and Using Data.
Agriculture and Food.
Health and Pharmaceuticals.
Banking and Finance.
Digital, Informal and Gig Economies.
Popular Culture and Entertainment.
Week 10: Green & Blue Economies and Sustainability Agendas
Week 11: Emerging from Neoliberalism and a New International Economic Order.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Independent online learning hours278.00
Private study hours0.00
Total Contact hours22.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)300.00

Private study

Students will be required to prepare for discussions in seminars through extensive reading of sources listed on the module reading list. In addition to this, students should spend time preparing for their assessments which should include finding and using sources not listed on their reading list.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Students are expected to prepare for seminars by reading the material listed in the module handbook. This requires students to read widely, carefully reflect on the relevant arguments and ideas, take notes and summarise texts in preparation for seminar discussions. Students are also expected to engage in independent research when preparing their essays. Students will have a list of required reading and supplementary reading for each week, as well as a list of key discussion questions for each seminar.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Case Study1 X 800 Data Case Study (Mid Term)30.00
Report1 x 3000 Report (End Of Term)70.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 29/04/2022 15:29:46


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