Capitalism and Geopolitics (L2062A)

30 credits, Level 6

Autumn teaching

In this multi-disciplinary module, you'll 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.

You'll explore the major theoretical traditions and debates, old and new, on the connection between capitalism and geopolitics. It 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 and peace, crises and revolutions, conquest and exploitation.

This course is at the centre of the emerging sub-fields of International Historical Sociology and the Political Economy of Geopolitics.

You'll study the three classical traditions that have most centrally informed this discourse:

  • the writings of Max Weber and Otto Hintze that assert the primacy of military competition for geopolitical orders and that have inspired a Neo-Weberian turn in Historical Sociology and International Relations (IR) since the mid-1980s
  • 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
  • the ideas of Karl Marx that 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, you also examine sequentially 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. 

You'll gain 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.


100%: Seminar


30%: Coursework (Essay)
70%: Written assessment (Essay)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 300 hours of work. This breaks down into about 33 hours of contact time and about 267 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2024/25. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to feedback, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let you know of any material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: