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Neoliberalism & its Discontents: The World since 1968 - HIS00099M

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Sam Wetherell
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2020-21

Module summary

This module is a history of the world during the last fifty years organized around the often slippery and enigmatic term ‘neoliberalism’. Traditionally ‘neoliberalism’ refers to a system of economic and political thought that prioritizes the deregulation of national economies, the private ownership of infrastructure and the extension of marketplace ideas to many domains of life including education, healthcare and even personal relationships. Usually associated with economists such as Milton Freidman and Friedrich Hayek and with the politics of figures such as Margaret Thatcher in Britain, Ronald Regan in the United States and Deng Xiaoping in China, many believe that since the 1970s and 1980s neoliberalism has been a dominant force in most nations and international institutions.

Part of this course is an introduction to the political and economic history of the last fifty years, focussing on the erosion of social democratic welfare states in Britain and elsewhere, the stalling of economic growth in many western countries and the rise of inequality since the 1960s as well events such as the oil crisis in the 1970s and the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1980s and 1990s. The course will also look at how these events and transformations have been theorized and understood by historians, philosophers and economists and their intersection with ideas of gender and race in different parts of the world.


Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2020-21

Module aims

The module aims to:

  • Develop skills of source analysis and interpretation;
  • Assess a range of source material and relevant secondary works; and
  • Develop students’ powers of evidence-based historical argument, both orally and in writing.

Module learning outcomes

  • Be able to understand and explain some of the key political, economic and social events that have transformed the world since 1968.
  • Be able to understood how these changes have been theorized and understood by economists, historians, philosophers and politicians and the stakes involved in these debates.
  • Worked towards developing their own understanding of the emergence of neoliberalism, how it should it be defined and even the utility of the term itself.

Module content

Teaching Programme:

Students will attend eight weekly two-hour seminars in weeks 2-9

Inequality and economic growth post 1945

Neoliberal economic thought

Globalization and the national economy

The 1970s and the end of the social democratic order

The neoliberal city

New ideas of the self and society

Financialization and the 2008 crisis

The limits of neoliberalism and an uncertain future



Task Length % of module mark
Essay 4000 Words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students will complete a 2,000-word procedural essay for formative assessment, due in week 6 of the autumn term. They will then submit a 4,000-word assessed essay for summative assessment in week 2 of the spring term.

For further details about assessed work, students should refer to the Taught Masters Degrees Statement of Assessment.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 4000 Words
N/A 100

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment task, students will receive written feedback consisting of comments and a mark within 10 working days of submission. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their procedural work during their tutor’s student hours. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 20 working days of the submission deadline. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment.

Indicative reading

For term time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:

Rogers, Daniel T., Age of Fracture, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2012.

Beckett, Andy, When the Lights Went Out: Britain in the 1970s, London: Faber, 2009.

Fourcade-Gourinchas, Marion and Babb, Sarah L. “The Rebirth of the Liberal Creed: Paths to Neoliberalism in Four Countries” American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 108, No. 3 (November 2002): 533-79.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.