The world economy

Periodo di svolgimento
Ore del corso
Ore dei docenti responsabili
Ore di didattica integrativa

Modalità esame

Relazione di seminario


Optional for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students of the PhD Programme in "Political Science and Sociology"

Optional for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students of the PhD Programme in "Transnational Governance"

Optional for the 4th and 5th year students of the MA Programme in "Political and Social Sciences"


Overview of the course

International political economy provides the conceptual and analytical tools for understanding the nature of economic and political processes at the world and national levels. Instability and change in the world economy, rising inequalities, the technological transformation associated to the rise of a digital economy are closely linked issues that shape contemporary capitalism and represent major challenges for multi-level policy making.

The world economy is the topic of the course. The world economy is in turmoil due to deep changes in technology, economic structures, income distribution, the rise of East Asia, the expansion of finance, the effects of the covid-19 pandemic. Lectures will focus on the following issues:

- Understanding the world economy, world system approaches, international political economy and international economics perspectives.

- The historical development of world capitalism, the parallel dynamics of cycles of accumulation – shaping economic activities and financial expansions - and cycles of hegemony - shaping international relations and State power, including centre-periphery dynamics.

- The role of labour in the world economy and the changing location of capital-labour conflicts.

- The resulting income distribution among and within countries, the rise in inequalities and their drivers.

- The role of technology in capitalism, the technological paradigm based on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), the emerging digital economy, the rise of digital platforms, the risk of a surveillance capitalism.

- An overview of current economic instability after the covid-19 crisis, the rise of China and East Asia, changing political hierarchies in the world economy. 

Course format

Lectures will provide the basic tools for understanding the world economy. Students are asked to read the course material and participate in the discussion. Academic guests and PhD students may give invited talks on specific topics related to the course.


PhD and Master students taking the exam are asked to write a paper – of about 3,000 words - on a course topic. Topics may bridge the background and interests of students with the themes of the course. Exam papers should be highly focused, with a strong logical structure, and may address or combine theory, empirical evidence and policy analyses. Master students can be allowed to write their paper in Italian.


Session N. 1 World systems and international political economy

4.11.2021, h.14.00-17.00

Required readings

G. Arrighi, The long XX century. Money, power and the origins of our time, Verso, 2nd edn 2010, Introduction and Chapter 1.

Session N. 2 Cycles of accumulation and cycles of hegemony

5.11.2021, h.10.00-13.00

Required readings

G. Arrighi, The long XX century, Money, power and the origins of our time, Verso, 2nd edn 2010, Chapter 4 and Epilogue

Session N. 3 Labour and conflicts in the world economy

11.11.2021, h.14.00-17.00

Required readings

B. Silver, Forces of Labor. Workers' Movements and Globalization Since 1870, Cambridge University Press, 2003, Introduction and Chapter 5.

Session N. 4 The distribution of income: inequality among and within countries

12.11.2021, h.10.00-13.00

Required readings

M. Franzini, M. Pianta, Explaining inequality, Routledge 2016, Ch.1,2,4.

B. Milanovic, Global inequality, Harvard University Press, 2016, Ch.1.

T. Piketty, Capital in the XXI century, Harvard University Press, 2014, Introduction, Ch.1

Session N. 5 Technology and capitalism

18.11.2021, h.14.00-17.00

Required readings

C. Freeman, F. Louca, As time goes by.From the Industrial Revolutions to the Information Revolution, Oxford University Press, 2002, Introduction to Part I, Introduction to Part II, Chapter 9, Conclusions to Part II.

Session N. 6. Digital technologies and surveillance capitalism

19.11.2021, h.10.00-13.00

Required readings

M. Pianta, Technology and work. Stylized facts for the digital age, in K. Zimmermann (ed.)

Handbook of Labor, Human Resources and Population Economics, Springer, 2019

S. Zuboff, The age of surveillance capitalism, London, Profile Books, 2019, Ch.1,2,3,18.

Session N. 7 The current transition in the world economy

25.11.2021, h.14.00-16.00

Required readings

G. Arrighi, Adam Smith in Beijing. Lineages of the 21st Century, Verso, 2007, Introduction, Chapter 12, Epilogue.



Obiettivi formativi

Teaching goals

The aim of the course is to provide students with the conceptual, analytical, empirical and policy tools needed to understand the dynamics of the world economy.

Riferimenti bibliografici

See above