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Globalization Contested: Capitalism and its Alternatives


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA International Relations, specialization in Global Political Economy or Culture and Politics. Other students who are interested in the course are requested to contact the co-ordinator of studies.


For decades now, European ideas of modernization built around markets, growth and the national state have dominated developmental imaginaries and policy efforts. While these hegemonic ideas have always encountered resistance, their limits are now clearer than ever as the ecological and social basis of our existence are challenged by the relentless pursuit of profit and accumulation. The question is, of course, whether there are any viable alternatives, and if so, whether these can serve as the basis for a fairer and more sustainable social order.
This course examines critiques of neoliberal globalization as the dominant model of development, and explores alternative paths to modernization (or away from it) in the work of alter-globalization advocates, critical environmentalists, feminists, or the philosophies of indigenous peoples, to give a few examples. While acknowledging the importance of these alternatives and others, the course does not presuppose their superiority and aims instead to encourage debates on the contradictions and potential solutions to the current developmental impasse, while also acknowledging the powerful interests and formidable structural constraints that would need to be confronted in order to bring about any substantial change to the current global order.
During the first block of the course we will present a selection of critical appraisals of mainstream development and discuss the propositions that follow from them. In the second block, we will explore policies being currently debated that could form the basis of alternative models of development, or of paradigms that seek to move beyond development. These emerge from a variety of settings and schools of thought, including both proponents of reforms in the capitalist system and calls for more profound transformation, or state-based proposals versus others that seek to bypass institutions altogether. In the seminars, we will first introduce the broader context of a school of thought or a policy alternative, to later discuss in detail a series of key texts that will allow us to deepen the debate. The last two meetings will be used for student presentations.

Course objectives

The course encourages a critical assessment of preponderant models of development and explores development alternatives that could potentially inspire change. Participants in the course will acquire the following:

  • ability to critically assess mainstream discourses and practices of development.

  • knowledge of critiques of and alternatives to mainstream development.

  • ability to critically evaluate readings, and in particular assumptions of what development means.

  • discussion, presentation and essay writing skills.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course load

Total: 280 hours

  • 24 hours of classes (attendance is compulsory).

  • 120 hours of reading and class preparation (10 hours per week over 12 weeks).

  • 18 hours to prepare for reading discussions (each student will be in charge of one reading).

  • 18 hours to prepare for final presentation.

  • 100 hours to prepare for final paper.

The number of hours is of course an estimation. Students are expected to organize their time and complete all required coursework in a way that best suits their abilities.

Assessment method

  • Paper

  • Dicussion

  • Presentation

  • Attendance


  • Final paper of 4,000 words (50%)

  • Discussion of an assigned reading (20%)

  • Final presentation based on final paper (15%)

  • Attendance and participation (15%)

The final mark is established by determining the weighted average, with all three assessment components needing to reach a sufficient grade in order to pass. The resit is only available to students whose final mark is insufficient.


Via uSis

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Reading list