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Studying Political Economy

9 June 2021
Answers to all your frequently asked questions
What is Political Economy (PE)? How is it different from Economics or Political Science? Unsure whether a background in maths is required to study PE? Read on to learn more about Political Economy and all your under and postgraduate study options.

What is political economy?

Short answer: Political Economy examines the economy from a social, historical, and political perspective.  

In studying Political Economy, you learn to apply a ‘pluralist’ approach that considers different ways of thinking about the economy and the forces that influence it: how the past, present and future of economic and social change is shaped by political interests and struggles, and how people interact with each other and their environment over time.

You’ll explore the big issues that impact the economy including climate change, Black Lives Matter, social media, the future of work, uneven development, housing insecurity, financial instability, social inequality, and more.

Is there a difference between political economy and economics

Short answer: Yes – they use different approaches to study the economy.

Political Economy draws on a range of economic thinking and ideas to apply different lenses – ie. class, gender, race etc – to analyse the economy and the big issues that impact it.  The ‘pluralist’ approach of Political Economy is interdisciplinary - drawing on sociology, geography, history, policy studies as well as economics – which provides you with a wholistic understanding of the economy, its institutions, processes and issues.

Economics, as taught at university, focuses on statistical methods and mathematical modelling to explain markets and the behaviour of households, businesses, industries and governments.

What is the difference between political economy and political science?

Short answer: Political Economy examines the drivers of economic change over time, and the structural features of economies that cause shifts. Political Science focuses on governments and political activity.

Political Economy seeks to explain and evaluate economic policies by studying how governments are influenced by the structures and institutions of the global economy, and how policies are also shaped by struggles between workers, corporations, as well as social and environmental movements.

Political Science is concerned with political activity and ideology, examining the roles and behaviour of governments (and other institutions), in national and international politics.

Do I need a background in economics or maths to study political economy?

Short answer: No. The prior study of economics or maths is not essential.

There are no prerequisites for enrolling in a major in Political Economy. Political Economy’s interdisciplinary approach means that studies such as society and culture, history, legal studies, and geography are just as useful for prospective Political Economy students as studying HSC economics.

How can I study political economy?

Short answer: Political economy can be studied at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels (by coursework or research).

If you're considering an undergraduate degree, you can study political economy by choosing a major or minor through the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Economics and Bachelor of Visual Arts, as well as all combined Bachelor of Advanced Studies degrees.

Postgrad coursework options include the Master of Political Economy, Graduate Certificate in Political Economy and the Graduate Diploma in Political Economy.

And PE research options include: Doctor of Philosophy, Master of Philosophy, Master of Arts (Research) and Doctor of Social Sciences.

What jobs can I get with a political economy degree?

Short answer: Political economy provides you with the sophisticated research and critical thinking skills to work in a variety of roles across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors.

Many of Australia’s top business and finance journalists are graduates of Political Economy; many of our graduates also can be found working in Federal and State government departments, like Treasury and Finance.

Political economists also run private businesses, and work in marketing, insurance companies, banks, as country risk assessors, hold senior positions in trade unions, in prominent policy think-tanks, and high-profile civil society organisations.


Learn more about our Department of Political Economy

IMAGE: Photo by Timon Studler on Unsplash

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