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2019/20 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

LUBS3925 The Political Economy of Work

10 creditsClass Size: 90

Module manager: Prof. David Spencer

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2019/20

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

The activity of work is a vital part of human life: it serves an essential role in economic reproduction (in this role, it figures in economic analysis) but it also plays an important part in shaping human well-being. This module is chiefly concerned with the contribution of the economics literature to the understanding of the activity of work. There is a particular focus on the historical development of ideas on work in economics. Consideration is also given to the contribution of different schools of economic thought to the understanding of work. There is also coverage of more recent developments in the analysis of work in economics; for example, debates concerning work time and work time regulation, as well as the quality of work are addressed. Modern innovations in economics research such as happiness economics are tackled and there is broader consideration of the economic and politics of job quality. Through lectures and discussion-centred seminars, the module examines key theoretical and policy relevant ideas relating to the economics and political economy of work. More broadly, it engages with critical issues over the nature and scope of economics. The module places emphasis on critical evaluation and analysis and explores the nature as well as limits of conventional economic ideas. The need for a ‘political economy of work’ that encompasses ideas from outside the mainstream in economics and from different social sciences is stressed throughout the module. The module aims to equip you with critical thinking skills about the nature and scope of economic thinking about work.


This module aims to provide a critical understanding of the concept of work as seen through the writings of economists, both past and present and both mainstream and non-mainstream. It addresses a number of issues that bear upon the conception of work within economic theory. The module also aims to offer a critical understanding of the meaning and nature of work.

Learning outcomes
Upon completion of this module students will be able to identify and analyse:
- rival concepts and theories of work from within economic analysis
- the development of ideas on work in economic thought
- key developments in the history of the discipline of economics
- the relation between economics and other disciplines

Skills outcomes
Upon completion of this module students will be able to:
Subject specific
- Apply knowledge of work theories in economics to various policy and ethical questions

Transferable skills:
- think and reason critically


Indicative Content:
Mercantilist labour doctrine and the ‘utility of poverty’ thesis; classical economics and labour theory; neoclassical economics and the disutility of work; Marxian political economy and the idea of ‘alienation’; institutional labour economics; work time and work time regulation; the neoclassical labour supply model; principal agent theory and the theorisation of work; happiness economics and the measurement and definition of job quality.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours84.00
Total Contact hours16.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)100.00

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Students' progress is monitored via questions and answers in seminars, by appointment during office hours to those students who want to meet to discuss any issues relating to the module, and via reading and commenting on non-assessed / practice essays.

Methods of assessment

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Standard exam (closed essays, MCQs etc)2 hr 00 mins100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)100.00

The resit for this module will be 100% by 2 hour examination.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 30/04/2019


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