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Political Economy of Ecological Crisis


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies programme.


This course examines the transformations in global political economy that have propelled the convergence of multiple ecological crises: from environmental degradation and resource depletion, to resource conflicts and human displacement, mass species extinction, and anthropogenic climate change. Investigating historical and contemporary processes of global economic restructuring, this course focuses on capitalism as both an economic/social system and an ecological regime, premised on the progressive incorporation of non-human nature as a commodity and the object of managerial knowledge.

At the heart of this investigation is the question of social power: who has it, why and how is it used? The course is based on the understanding that patterns of resources access and use, technological development, and socio-ecological transformation are always socially and historically constituted, through uneven, power-laden dynamics. The course thus looks at how and why certain ways of organizing and producing nature-society interactions become dominant (while others become marginalized or excluded), with which uneven socio-economic impacts.
To answer these questions, this course addresses different approaches to the political economy of the environment, including Environmental and Ecological Economics, along with EcoMarxist, Ecofeminist, Post-growth and Decolonial perspectives. Students will apply these perspectives to examine specific case studies: land and food security, waste production and management, deforestation and extractivism, privatization of public space, gentrification through eviction and slum growth, capital encroachment and expansion of zoonotic diseases, etc. Correspondingly, the course puts special emphasis on the strengths and weaknesses of contemporary responses to these crises (from technological fixes like geo-engineering, gene-modification and assisted evolution to regulatory mechanisms and grassroots approaches to decarbonize economies), illuminating the distributional effects of different forms of environmental governance, as well new and imaginative ways of conceptualizing nature/society relationships to avoid ecosystem collapse.

Course objectives

Upon completion, students will be able to:

  • Analyze and understand key concepts and theories in nature-society relations;

  • Identify and engage with different approaches to the study of ecological transformation, environmental conflicts, and crises;

  • Use a political ecology lens to explain and evaluate the ways environmental management interventions are designed, and the way environmental crises are framed;

  • Apply a political ecology lens to explain and evaluate current issues and developments in historical, geographical, and cultural context;

  • Develop critical thinking about the politics of environmental change;

  • Conduct independent research in the field of political ecology, thereby showing the ability to comprehend and apply relevant theoretical insights and multidisciplinary methodological approaches;

  • Effectively communicate research results in correct academic English in various written formats;

  • Provide constructive feedback to, and formulate criticism of, the work of others and the ability to assess the value of such criticism and feedback on one’s own work and incorporate it.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

Seminars are held every week, with the exception of the midterm exam week.

Assessment method

Assessment and Weighing

Partial grade Weighing
Research proposal 10%
Research essay 60%
Oral presentation 10%
In-class assignments and class participation 20%

Retaking a passing grade

Please consult the Course and Examination Regulations 2021 – 2022.

Exam review and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organised.

Reading list

To be announced.


There are limited places available in this minor equivalent, so please send an email to our administration as soon as possible if you would like to enrol for this package. In your email, please mention the name of the package Ecology, Migration and Tolerance: Limits to cooperation?, as there are other packages available as well. We will only offer this to students as a part of their Elective Credits; there is no option of doing these courses as extracurricular courses. Students cannot register in uSis for this course, or be allowed into this course in any other way.



All other information.