Why a School of Political Economy?

The university economics curriculum has been regularly criticised for its lack of plurality and interdisciplinarity by students, business and society at large. Indeed, in no other academic discipline do students so regularly, and so widely, express deep dissatisfaction with the content of what they are taught. There is ongoing work trying to remedy the situation inside the university system. However, for a range of reasons, the pace of reform is too slow. In response to this situation, we have established the School of Political Economy (SPE) to offer the type of courses that universities should be offering but usually do not.  

Political Economy versus economics

Political economy is the preferred term for most of the content taught at SPE. We generally prefer the term ‘political economy’ over similar terms such as ‘heterodox economics’ for several reasons, including that political economy was the original name for economics, and given that much of that early pioneering work was far more interdisciplinary and pluralist than contemporary economics, it is appropriate to explicitly link back to this intellectual lineage and nomenclature.   

Modern political economy studies the social provisioning process: how society does (and does not) get the goods and services it needs to flourish. Political economy is ‘economics in context’ in that it regularly incorporates the social, political and environmental context in which economic activity occurs. Much work in political economy is progressive in nature, seeking to better understand the world in order to improve it. 

Political economy has common ground with economics in that it studies the production and distribution of goods and services. However, the various schools of political economy adopt a broader and deeper mode of analysis than occurs in much economic analysis. Whilst our primary focus is on the teaching the various schools of political economy, we always include some teaching of standard economics in our courses. This is appropriate for a number for several reasons, including that fact that it increases your capacity to make informed choices between rival claims about the causes of, and solutions to, various economic and social challenges.  


DR Tim Thornton

Tim is the Director of the School of Political Economy and is a Senior Research Fellow at theEconomics in Context Initiative at Boston University and the Global Development Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University. He is also a member of the Advisory Council for theCentre for Economy Studies in the the Netherlands. Tim has extensive teaching and curriculum design experience in economics, political economy and economic history. Much of Tim’s recent research has been on pluralism and interdisciplinarity, including his bookFrom Economics to Political Economy: the promise, problems and solutions of pluralist economics. His most recent book is the co-edited Handbook of Alternative Theories of Political Economy (Edward Elgar 2022) and the co-written textbookEssentials of Economics in Context (Routledge 2020). Tim holds a Ph.D. in Economics (La Trobe University), a Master of International Development (Monash University) and a Graduate Diploma in International Development (Monash University).You can view his full C.V. here