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The Environment and Global Capitalism


Admission requirements

This course is available for students of the MA International Relations - Global Political Economy.

Students who are interested in taking this course, but who are not admitted to the mentioned master programmes are requested to contact the co-ordinator of studies.


What is the role of the environment in the global economy? What are the economic roots of environmental degredation, biodiversity loss and the climate crisis? This course examines these questions. It examines the way the environment is conceived by the main schools of political economy and offers frameworks that illuminate the relationship between the environment and capitalism. It focuses on the manner that environmental resources have played a central role in the capitalist system. In addition to their socio-political character, phases in the history of capitalism, such as colonialism, should also be understood as ecological regimes. Capital accumulation and growth have depended on the commodification of the environment, which has undergone radical transformation and reorganization as result. The course will also examine specific aspects such as oil, food, labour and the climate crisis. The course will examine these issues through a critical framework that comprises literature on political economy and political ecology. The course also examines policies that can address the environment such as green growth and degrowth.

The provisional topics are as follows:

  1. Introduction
  2. The environment and the history of capitalism
  3. Theoretical approaches: Liberal political economy
  4. Theoretical approaches: Critical political economy
  5. Extractivism
  6. Fossil fuels
  7. The climate crisis
  8. Food and agriculture
  9. The environment and labour
  10. Environmental justice
  11. Green growth
  12. Degrowth

Course objectives

  • Develop a conceptual framework that reveals the centrality of the ecology in the capitalist system.

  • Understand the history of the environment in the global economy.

  • Develop a critical response to normative approaches to environmental issues.

  • Discuss debates on sustainable development.

  • Gain in-depth knowledge of specific environmental issues in the global economy such as food security and the climate crisis.

  • Discuss potential future scenarios and radical alternatives


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Assessment and weighing

Class participation: 15%
Class exercise: 15%
Research proposal: 20%
Research paper (5000 words): 50%

Reading list


Enrolment through My Studymap is mandatory.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga


Not applicable.