Seen but not heard: The role of the child in international political economy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


A casual glance at the indexes of many of the most widely used texts in both international relations (IR) and international political economy (IPE) reveals an interesting fact: there is a paucity of references to the child, or to children. Mention the role of the child in the international system and the response will almost certainly be to question whether any such role even exists. Yet children are profoundly affected by, and themselves affect, what happens in the international and the domestic arenas. To deny this, for example, negates the impact that poverty has upon their chances for education and adequate healthcare, the way in which conflict leaves children orphaned, displaced or indeed responsible as the head of a household when one or both of their parents are killed or fighting away from home, the level of their involvement in the international division of tabour or, indeed, their role as consumers of finished products. Thus, in a similar manner to the way in which the inclusion of women alters the 'landscape of international politics', incorporating the child into IPE, and indeed into IR more generally, may mean that traditional themes and constructs-such as states, sovereignty, political identity, agency, power, representation-will have to be reconstructed through the lenses of the child and of childhood as a way of revealing not only how children have been neglected in mainstream analysis, but also what the consequences of such neglect are for the discipline as a whole. Concentrating specifically on the global political economy, this article will argue that an IPE which does not recognise the place of the child within it results not only in an incomplete analysis of the workings of the international system in general, but also exposes the inadequacy of mainstream IPE analysis in particular. Not only is the role of the child an area that is worthy of future study, but understanding how children are affected by, and themselves affect, the emerging global economy and society is crucial to being able to understand both the present and future dynamics of the international system. With these thoughts in mind, the discussion will first clarify what is meant by the term 'child', and what the term's implications are for the section of the population known as 'children'.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-21
Number of pages19
JournalNew Political Economy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2004




Dive into the research topics of 'Seen but not heard: The role of the child in international political economy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this