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What is GPE and Why Is it Important?

Updated on September 11, 2016
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Peter Hillson is a third year Political Science student at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

Joined: 11 months agoFollowers: 4Articles: 27

In political science, GPE refers to the field of academia that studies the Global Political Economy. As a field, GPE has only become more relevant since the 2008 financial crisis, and focuses on a number of areas that are overlooked by traditional disciplines of study. GPE is worth studying because, in comparison to defined fields of study, it facilitates a more comprehensive and realistic understanding of how the world actually works. It does this by synthesizing a number of factors spanning several disciplines into the concept of a global political economy. I will elaborate on exactly what GPE is, how it overlaps with other fields, and why it is relevant.

GPE: What Is it?

As defined by O’Brien and Williams in their text Global Political Economy, GPE is a subject that attempts to describe the mechanics of politics and the economy by analyzing these topics with many other social sciences. That is to say, GPE is not limited to one specific field of study, (political science, economics. etc.), but attempts to synthesize information from many fields. In this way, those who study GPE hope to provide a more complete picture of how relations on a global level actually work. This requires a fair amount of overlap with many fields within the social sciences.

What makes GPE unique is that it does not operate under the same limitations that define other fields. GPE is premised on the idea that you can glean greater knowledge of the world by comparing information from many fields within the same context. The most obvious example is that of political science and economics: each is capable of enriching the theories of the other. GPE seems to be exactly what Green and Hay are proposing in their article "Towards a New Political Economy of the Crisis: Getting What Went Wrong Right," which appeared in the journal New Political Economy. GPE can avoid the nearsightedness that seems to plague modern economics.

Why Should You Care About GPE?

Noah Smith’s article "Most of what you learned in Econ 101 is wrong" (published in Bloomberg in 2015) discusses the sentiment that classical economics does not describe the world accurately enough to be useful. Smith argues that the basics of economics are almost unrelated to how the modern economic system actually works.

I agree with this, and would also argue that this is due to the aura of perceived infallibility that surrounds economics. What I mean by this is that the study of economics refuses to acknowledge that information outside of “pure economics” is relevant to research within the economic field. As Smith and Green and Hay point out, this has lead to disastrous missteps by economists. Especially in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, we need to start looking at new ways of approaching economic analysis.

This is where GPE comes in. Without the limitations that accompany the exclusive study of economics or political science, GPE is able to incorporate ideas across disciplines. This gives it a huge advantage when examining problems that span across disciplines, which are many. For this reason, GPE provides the unique perspective and multidisciplinary thinking that is so sorely lacking in economics. GPE is worth studying because it leads to innovative solutions that would not normally arise from the classic studies of economics or political science.


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