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Knowledge and understanding

The goal of this course is to analyse the main ethical issues that are specific to the development of an integrated global economy. Topics include but are not necessarily limited to: 1. the distributive implications of trade; 2. the resource curse and the ethics of natural resource sales; 3. the ethics of immigration including the fiscal and economic effects of immigration and whether the state has a right to exclude non-citizens; 4 the impact of tax competition on self-determination and social justice; 5. the impact of free capital mobility on social justice; 6. commodity chains, and labour exploitation. The course tries to introduce students to these topics by explaining the moral trade-offs involved in some of the key practices that participation in a globalized economic system forces us to make. As an illustration, consider the idea of exploitation. Whenever one buys a piece of garment from a popular brand, its sale price will reflect, most of the time, the low cost of labour and awful working conditions in some other country. What is the morally appropriate response to this fact? Should one stop purchasing the garments? Or should one continue to do so in order not to deprive workers in developing countries of their current jobs? Should one switch to fair trade items? 

Applying knowledge and understanding

By the end of the module students should be able: To develop an advanced knowledge of the moral aspects connected to the evaluation of the current system of global economic governance. To develop an advanced knowledge of the ethical debates connected to the current phase of economic globalization. By the end of the module students should be able: To develop the ability to analyse complex topics in political science and international relations broadly construed and to do so on the basis of directed and independent learning. To develop the technical, and qualitative research skills necessary to pursue research in political science and international relations. To carry out research in political science and international relations through independent work. To weigh critically qualitative and quantitative evidence in social and political analysis. 

Further expected learning outcomes:

Students will be taught and learn through self-guided learning, lectures, class discussion, and seminars. Students are taught through 2-hour lectures (each week), followed by 2-hour seminars (each week). Each lecture will introduce the students to the key theoretical approaches or data relevant to the theme of the lecture. The lectures will be tailored to accommodate the differential knowledge and disciplinary skills of different cohorts and to make sure that students approach subsequent seminars with an appropriate level of knowledge and understanding. The lectures will be followed by seminars during which students are required to examine and discuss the weekly material with their peers. During seminars students are also encouraged to explore the lecture content in greater detail and to identify areas in which they require particular guidance, for example on further reading. The seminars will enable students to develop their abilities to conduct research, to communicate, to present theoretical alternatives and data, and to develop their own argumentation skills. Class discussion encourages background reading, contributing to the students’ independent learning. It will further allow students the opportunity to exchange ideas, to explore issues and arguments that interest or concern them in greater depth, and to receive feedback from both the group and the lecturer on their own arguments and understanding. 


Week 1: introduction

Week 2: fair trade and natural resources;

Week 3: fair trade and distributive justice;

Week 4: fair trade and exploitation;

Week 5: financial crises and their human cost;

Week 6: tax competition and fiscal sovereignty;

Week 7: distributive effects of economic migrations;

Week 8: how to write a policy brief;

Week 9: recap and revisions. 


General Approach: there is no single textbook for this course. Students are asked to read one or two academic papers each week in preparation for class discussions. All the readings are provided by the course convenor. Students are also invited to conduct independent research, guided by the course convenor, by exploring several texts belonging to a list of 'recommended readings' that is provided at the beginning of the course. 

Key Introductory Texts: David Held and Pietro Maffettone (eds.), 2016, Global Political Theory, Polity Press. See especially Editors’ Introduction and Chapters 10,11, 12. Dani Rodrik, 2017, Straight Talk on Trade, Princeton University Press. Dani Rodrik, 2011, The Globalization Paradox, Norton & Company. Aaron James, 2012, Fairness in Practice: A Social Contract for a Global Economy, Oxford University Press. Nicole Hassoun, 2012, Globalization and Global Justice: Shrinking Distance, Expanding Obligations, Cambridge University Press. 


Learning results to be verified

Students are assessed through the creation of a 3500 words policy brief that forms the main topic of discussion for their oral examination. Students are asked to create their own policy brief question. They are then asked to consult the teacher for the question to be formally approved. Once the policy brief question is approved, the students develop their work autonomously but follow a strict set of guidelines discussed in class. The policy brief is submitted one week in advance of the exam date, is marked by the course convenor, and is discussed during an oral examination which allows students to defend their arguments in the brief itself. 

Assessment method

Written and oral examination

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