Global political economy is a field of study that deals with the interaction between political and economic forces. At its centre have always been questions of human welfare and how these might be related to state behaviour and corporate interests in different parts of the world. Despite this, major approaches in the field have often focused more on the international system perspective. A side effect of this has been the relative neglect of nonelites and an all-too-often missing recognition of ordinary individuals. While states remain central to international politics, they have gradually intensified their relations with multinational corporations and strengthened their engagement with international organisations. Naturally, these changes in the world around us have led to a certain rethinking of the way we understand and position individuals as actors in the global economy. To account for this, many scholars now prefer to use the term ‘global political economy’ (GPE) over the more traditional term ‘international political economy’ (IPE). Although both terms are often used interchangeably, using the word ‘global’ is important as it indicates a wider scope in political economy that reaches beyond relations between states.
There are various approaches to global political economy that span the political spectrum and often overlap with the perspectives covered in chapters three and four – though they are often formulated differently to incorporate economic factors. These range from state-centred approaches to Marxist approaches that argue that international capitalism will lead to the end of the state due to capitalism’s inherent flaws. Arguably, it has been the liberal approach that has given individual actors (rather than states or social groups) the centre stage for analysis. As such, liberal approaches to global political economy form the bedrock of this chapter as they offer a more tangible way to present complex issues of global economics to a beginner in a way that is relatable.