University of Sussex Business School

Capitalism and Geopolitics (L2062S)

Capitalism and Geopolitics

Module L2062S

Module details for 2019/20.

30 credits

FHEQ Level 6

Module Outline

Dr Benno Teschke
This multi-disciplinary module is designed to examine the relations between capitalism and geopolitics and how their interaction has shaped different political communities and world orders from the 17th Century up to the 21st Century. It explores the major theoretical traditions and debates, old and new, on the nexus between capitalism and geopolitics and combines these theoretical perspectives with in-depth interrogations of the historical material the key events, processes, actors that shaped this turbulent international history of war & peace, crises & revolutions, conquest & exploitation.
The terms 'capitalism' and 'geopolitics' have made a remarkable comeback in the public dismodule and in academia. Until very recently, both terms were regarded as almost obsolete, if not 'beyond history', given the relative absence of major inter-state wars since WWII and the apparent achievements of social market economies in the advanced capitalist countries. The sudden resurrection of both vocabularies in the 21st Century debates across a wide range of disciplines (IR/IPE, sociology, political geography etc) indicates a return to a harsher social and international climate. This calls for a critical re-examination of their origins and co-development as real historical phenomena and associated dismodules, and a closer inspection of these two fundamental dimensions of the world we inhabit.
However, in the conventional literature, 'geopolitics' and 'capitalism' tend to be treated as two separate phenomena. 'Geopolitics' is conceived as the sphere of strategic conflicts between states over space and resources, conceptualised primarily at the level of inter-political relations. 'Capitalism' is seen as the sphere of conflicts between social actors over chances of reproduction sometimes simply seen in the economic literature as the market-mediated allocation of resources - and conceptualised primarily at the level of society. In this module, we challenge this persisting dualism and opposition by probing their interrelation across various historical periods and diverse theoretical registers. This specific research course is at the center of the emerging sub-fields of International Historical Sociology and the Political Economy of Geopolitics.

The first part of the module starts with an overview of the three classical traditions that have most centrally informed this dismodule: (i) the writings of Max Weber and Otto Hintze that assert the primacy of military competition for geopolitical orders and that have - since the mid-1980s inspired a Neo-Weberian turn in Historical Sociology and IR; (ii) the works of Fernand Braudel and Immanuel Wallerstein updated and extended by neo-Gramscian IR Theory - that stress the rise of commercial exchange and the construction of successive world hegemonies; (iii) and the ideas of Karl Marx that, although short on specific arguments on geopolitics, have more recently led to intense debates within the Neo-Marxist literature on how to conceptualise capitalist social relations and class conflict in their effects on inter-state conflict and co-operation across the centuries.

Against this theoretical setting, the second part of the module examines sequentially a number of different historical geopolitical orders dynastic-absolutist, 19th Century British Hegemony, imperialist, fascist, liberal and contemporary and the transitions between them on the basis of divergent and contested interpretations deriving from the three classical traditions. The aim is to provide a set of theoretically-informed and empirically-controlled analyses of the ways in which capitalism and geopolitics have shaped each other and constituted varieties of territorial orders in historical perspective.

This course provides a long-term historical account and analysis of Latin America's formation and integration into the modern world system. It investigates patterns of growth and distribution of wealth over different periods of time and between countries. The course investigates how these patterns have influenced and have been shaped by three interrelated factors-domestic social structures, state formation and integration to the evolving world system. Key issues to be discussed in the course include: the Iberian political economic lethargy; attempts at constructing cohesive state structures and state-led economic development; the influence of rural and urban social movements on the political-conomic-economic structures of different countries; responses to globalisation, including the attempt at creating regional blocs across the region; and a discussion of the extent to which the current 'pink tide' (or red wave') constitutes a realistic alternative political-economic trajectory for the mass of the continents population.

This module is assessed by Assessed by a 70% 3.5K essay, 20% 1k Essay, 10% 20 minute Group presentation. We meet each week for a three hour seminar combining mini-lectures, group work, analytical exercises and open discussion.

Module learning outcomes

Develop a systematic and critical understanding of the key debates in International Historical Sociology that helps to explain and interpret the historical co-development of capitalism and goepolitics.

Develop a detailed conceptual understanding of the historical development and expansion of the European system of states from the 17th to the 21st centuries.

Effectively synthesise and communicate the theoretical and empirical uncertainties, ambiguities and limits in the way that International Historical Sociology explains the emergence of the European system of states.

Essay (3500 words)Semester 2 Assessment Week 1 Mon 16:00100.00%

Submission deadlines may vary for different types of assignment/groups of students.


Coursework components (if listed) total 100% of the overall coursework weighting value.

TermMethodDurationWeek pattern
Spring SemesterSeminar3 hours11111111111

How to read the week pattern

The numbers indicate the weeks of the term and how many events take place each week.

Dr Earl Gammon

Assess convenor

Prof Benno Teschke


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