Postgraduate Module

POL6601 | The Political Economy of Poverty

Module Code


Module Title

The Political Economy of Poverty


Level 4




30 credits

Taught by:

Professor J. Allister McGregor

Module Description:

This course explores how our understandings of poverty affect decisions about how to act in relation to it. It offers a critical analysis of the nature and dynamics of poverty across the contemporary world. It uses examples from a range of different nation state and cultural contexts and considers the domestic and international dynamics at play in producing and reproducing poverty. It considers the political implications of different concepts of poverty and analyses the role and practices of international agencies, nation state governments, non-governmental organisations and collective action groups in seeking to reduce or eradicate poverty.

Module Aims:

This unit will provide a comprehensive understanding of how poverty is understood and addressed in the contemporary world. It will familiarise participants with poverty concepts and their implications for the actions of individuals, communities, governments and international bodies.

By the end of the unit, a candidate will...
1. understand a range of different conceptions of poverty
2. understand the political implications of these different poverty concepts
3. understand the relevance of the different concepts for societies at different positions in the global system
4. understand the types of choices and policies that flow from these different conceptions of poverty


Eight 2-hour lecture sessions

1. Introduction: What is Poverty?
2. A History of Poverty
3. Income and Consumption Poverty
4. Multidimensional Poverty
5. Relational and Experienced Poverty
6. The Poverty Business
7. Poverty Policies I
8. Poverty Policies II

Four 2-hour seminar sessions

1. Poverty in the Most Developed Countries
2. Poverty in Middle Income Countries
3. Poverty in the Least Developed Countries
4. Poverty in Transition Countries


  • A 2,500 word Country Poverty Profile Paper worth 40% of the mark.
    In this paper the student must select a country and then prepare a briefing paper that provides a profile of poverty in that country. This must include a description of different types of poverty and a brief analysis of the dynamics that are understood to be driving these outcomes. The paper must seek to use the most relevant, available data.
  • A 3,500 word Discursive Essay worth 60% of the mark.
    In this essay the student will be required to answer a question on poverty concepts and their application in terms of collective action or public policy. They will asked to illustrate their answer with reference to a particular country context. (They will be given a list of possible questions but also will be allowed to formulate their own question that will need to be approved).