Graduate students in professor Valentine Moghadam’s “Political Economy: Interdisciplinary Perspectives” course have been tasked with a million-dollar question: to explain the development and economic growth of selected countries in the Global South.
Their plan is to apply concepts, propositions, and theories learned in class, including classical political economy, modernization theory, and Marxian, world-systems, and feminist theories.
“When we’re studying a lot of these theories and philosophies, you see how they all melt together,” said Julietta Marks, a first-year student in the MA in International Affairs. “It actually relates back to my final paper, which is based off a thesis that development, especially economic development, comes from a foundation of ethic morality in each society, and without that foundation no massive overhaul, especially in the way of capitalism, can actually take root without getting blown away like a dandelion.”
Marks, who is pursuing the program’s International Public Policy track, is drawing comparisons between Japan and the Philippines—two island nations that underwent traumatic development periods in history—in an effort to determine how Japan was able to catch up to modernization while the Philippines is still struggling to this day.
Throughout the semester, students explored how states, institutions, policy choices, and social forces shape, and are influenced by, global economy and the world polity. They were introduced to a variety of theory frameworks around international affairs, learned how those theories apply to development and economic growth in different countries, and examined changes in relations among and between the countries of the Global North and the Global South.
Professor Moghadam designed the class as an overarching required course for all students enrolled in the MA in International Affairs, a challenging interdisciplinary program dedicated to preparing tomorrow’s global citizens and leaders. Thus, the course provides a comprehensive introduction to the issues explored in both degree tracks—International Public Policy, and Globalization, Development, and Social Justice—including foundations in theories and histories of modernization and economic development as well as some key contemporary debates and trends, such as Keynesian vs. neoclassical or neoliberal approaches; female labor force participation; income inequality; the promises and perils of free trade; and responses by civil society and social movements.
“We anticipated that students in the MA in International Affairs were interested in working for NGOs, international NGOs, or multilateral organizations, and having worked for the UN twice in my professional career, I had a sense of the necessary knowledge base and skills sets needed,” said Moghadam, who helped finalize the proposal for the degree.
On Wednesday, Nov. 30, first-year student Gody Occeus presented an overview of his final paper where he explores South Korea’s economic development and how it has shifted from a country torn apart by ethic and political civil war to one that has developed fairly quickly.
“I didn’t expect South Korea to develop as quickly as they did, especially after the Korean War,” Gody said in an interview after class. “Within just under 30 years they were able to become one of the highest exporting countries in the world, and then 20 years after that, they joined the trillion-dollar club. That’s a span of 50 or so years of high economic growth and expansion. That was insane, especially because they did it under a dictatorship.”
For Occeus, the best part of studying international affairs is being able to see how countries interact with one another and how policies affect and shape the world. His goal is to work as an ambassador and help develop Haiti—his parents’ birth country.
“After studying South Korea’s development, I think there can be a lot of things that we can take from their development,” Occeus said. “There’s no reason why this country (Haiti) is lagging so far behind.”
Julietta Marks’ goal, however, is to work in diplomacy or U.S. foreign relations with a focus on conflict resolution. She said Moghadam’s class is essential because it has broadened her perspective on a multitude of systems and theories.
And Jatnna Garcia, a first-year student pursuing the Globalization, Development, and Social Justice track, has the goal of working in humanitarian affairs for U.S. foreign relations. In class, she said she learned about Human Development Reports, an aspect of development she had not previously studied, as well as the difference between core, peripheral and semi-peripheral countries.
“We’ve been able to look at different theory frameworks to analyze why countries fall within the category that they do,” Garcia said. “I’m really interested in relationships between different countries. I think the United States is one of the most powerful countries and has the ability to influence all of these other countries for the better. One way that the U.S. can do that is by spreading things like human rights, which comes with humanitarian affairs.”
Click here for more information about the MA in International Affairs.