Power, Wealth and Poverty in a Global Age

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Monday 13 January 2020
Friday 20 March 2020
12 June 2019


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

From Marx, Weber and Durkheim onwards, sociologists have sought to understand how wealth is accumulated and distributed in different societies – both in pre-industrial societies, and in modern capitalist economies such as Britain today. Building on their thought and other scholars, this module is an introduction to economic sociology through a focus on how wealth has been distributed in British society and globally over the past two centuries. We will examine themes such as: why and how did capitalism develop? How is capitalism different today than it was during the eighteen and nineteenth centuries – the period of the first great industrial revolution? Why are economic inequalities growing wider in Britain and the USA? Why did the global economy experience a severe crisis in 2008, leading to a major recession?

These diverse questions all fall within the remit of economic sociology: the social study of economic change and development.

Economic sociology is very large and heterogeneous field. In order to study every facet of economic sociology, at least two or three full-year modules would be useful!

In this short module, we will introduce and explore the following principles:

1) Economic action is a type of social activity, and therefore the economy is a social entity
2) Wealth is accumulated and distributed through social and political processes

We will examine these principles through empirical case studies, exploring how a wide range of political and social factors play a role in economic transformation, from changing manufacturing processes, to changing moral views on the financial "value" of family members such as children, to growing levels of personal debt in the US and the UK. We will explore questions such as: 'is there such a thing as free market?'; 'where did this belief emerge from?', and 'what is the relationship between politics and the market system'?

Module aims

The module is something of a “sampler” in economic sociology. You do not need any prior economic knowledge to take the module, and you are not expected to finish feeling like an expert on the global economy. Rather, you are expected to have a solid sense of key historical shifts in the development of modern capitalist states, and an understanding of the relationship between economic change and political policy-making.

In order to analyze the relationship between sociological theories of economic change and real-world examples, we’ll draw on a varied and eclectic range of reading material, from seminal readings in economic sociology, to journalistic accounts of the current financial crisis in bestselling magazines such as the Rolling Stones.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should have solid understanding of the main aims of economic sociology and be able to draw links between social theories of economic change and empirical case studies covered in the module. Your main objective should be to read the mandatory readings in the module reader each week, and to draw on the reader’s contents on both your essays and your exam.

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

The module will comprise weekly lectures paired with weekly seminars. Most lectures will be given by Dr. McGoey, including guest lecturers from other Sociology faculty. In-class participation, revolving around discussions about historical and contemporary cases, will be emphasized, and weekly reading is required.


  • Martha Macdonald. (1991) 'Post-Fordism and the Flexibility Debate', in Studies in Political Economy. vol. 36
  • Nee, Victor; Swedberg, Richard. (c2005) The economic sociology of capitalism, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
  • Keister, Lisa A.; Lee, Hang Young. (2014-02) 'The One Percent: Top Incomes and Wealth in Sociological Research', in Social Currents. vol. 1 (1) , pp.13-24
  • Freidberg, Susanne. (2017-12-18) 'Trading in the secretive commodity', in Economy and Society., pp.1-23
  • Hickel, Jason. (2014-09-14) 'The ‘girl effect’: liberalism, empowerment and the contradictions of development', in Third World Quarterly. vol. 35 (8) , pp.1355-1373
  • Krippner, Greta. (no date) The financialization of the American Economy.
  • Antonio, Robert J. (2013-12) 'Plundering the Commons: The Growth Imperative in Neoliberal Times', in The Sociological Review. vol. 61 (2_suppl) , pp.18-42
  • Fourcade, Marion. (2011-05) 'Cents and Sensibility: Economic Valuation and the Nature of “Nature”', in American Journal of Sociology. vol. 116 (6) , pp.1721-77
  • Joyce, Joseph. (no date) Globalization and Inequality among Nations.
  • The importance of wealth concentration and why it is so difficult to measure,
  • McGoey, Linsey. (2017-03) 'The Elusive Rentier Rich: Picketty and the problem of absent evidence', in Science, Technology, & Human Values. vol. 42 (2) , pp.257-279
  • Seamster, Louise; Charron-Chénier, Raphaël. (2017-06) 'Predatory Inclusion and Education Debt: Rethinking the Racial Wealth Gap', in Social Currents. vol. 4 (3) , pp.199-207

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Essay   16/03/2020  100% 
Exam  120 minutes during Summer (Main Period) (Main) 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
50% 50%


Coursework Exam
50% 50%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Linsey McGoey, email:
Dr Linsey McGoey
Jane Harper, Undergraduate Administrator, Telephone: 01206 873052 E-mail:



External examiner

No external examiner information available for this module.
Available via Moodle
Of 18 hours, 18 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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