854106 Economics and politics of natural resources

Lecture and seminar
Semester hours
Lecturer (assistant)
Blanda, Laura , Forster, Franziskus
Offered in
Wintersemester 2023/24
Languages of instruction


Introduction to the main terms of the social sciences: What is power, leadership-authority, society, politics? Definitions of natural resources as well as basic terms like nature, technology, industrial development, risk society and sustainable development are introduced.

The thematic part of the lecture starts with the history of property rights on land: Who owns the land? How are property rights defined? Which social and political processes were connected to the transformation of these rights (concerning the Middle Ages, feudalism, peasants´ liberation, capitalism)? How are these historic developments related to current problems?

In addition the lecture will present aspects of traditional political economics, the role of the government in the economic process and the associated ideological interpretations of these role as well as the basics of resource economics.

Further emphasis is put on discourses on key resources, such as water and genetic resources. Especially the latter is a current topic that represents the discovery of "new" natural resources, as the preservation, use and threat of biodiversity has become a global problem. Due to technological changes linked to modern biotechnology (genetic engineering) new property rights, especially in form of patents on organisms and genomes (biotechnological inventions) have emerged as an area of new political (and ethical) discourses.

The lecture will also offer new perspectives: besides traditional approaches of political economics new approaches to an ecology-oriented policy are introduced. We will also discuss the re-valuation of labour as a natural resource, the change of the meaning of labour in modern society, the feelings of alienation in current labour societies and alternative concepts like subsistence and leisure.


Previous knowledge expected


Objective (expected results of study and acquired competences)

* to obtain a reasonable understanding of social, political and economic processes connected with the use of natural resources.

* to provide incentives for developing independent thinking about property rights on natural resources, organization of political interests concerning these rights as well as the economic background of the use and overexploitation of natural resources.

* to point out alternative approaches and policy strategies, and to discuss the potential ensuing effects.

* to comment and interpret a thematic paper by means of scientific literature independently.

You can find more details like the schedule or information about exams on the course-page in BOKUonline.