Global English and Political Economy  book cover
1st Edition

Global English and Political Economy

ISBN 9781138811126
Published April 20, 2021 by Routledge
282 Pages

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Book Description

In this book, John O’Regan examines the role of political economy in the worldwide spread of English and traces the origins and development of the dominance of English to the endless accumulation of capital in a capitalist world-system.

O’Regan combines Marxist perspectives of capital accumulation with world-systems analysis, international political economy, and studies of imperialism and empire to present a historical account of the ‘free riding’ of English upon the global capital networks of the capitalist world-system. Relevant disciplinary perspectives on global English are examined in this light, including superdiversity, translanguaging, translingual practice, trans-spatiality, language commodification, World Englishes and English as a Lingua Franca. Global English and Political Economy presents an original historical and interdisciplinary interpretation of the global ascent of English, while also raising important theoretical and practical questions for perspectives which suggest that the time of the traditional models of English is past.

Providing an introduction to key theoretical perspectives in political economy, this book is essential reading for advanced students and researchers in applied linguistics, World Englishes and related fields of study.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1

The political economy of English in a capitalist world-system


Chapter 2

English and the political economy of informal empire, 16881850


Chapter 3

The political economy of global English, 18501914


Chapter 4

The political economy of global English, 19181979


Chapter 5

Capital-centric English and the modern world-system, 19792008


Chapter 6

The decline of the US world-hegemony


Chapter 7

Superdiverse translingualism, commodification and trans-spatial resistances


Chapter 8

The demise of capitalism and the end of the hegemony of English



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John P. O’Regan is Professor of Critical Applied Linguistics at UCL Institute of Education, University College London, UK. He is co-editor of Education and the Discourse of Global Neoliberalism (Routledge, 2021).


With this book, John O’Regan has mastered the art of engaging readers with his elegant and sharp scholarship, however complex the subject matter may be. He treats seriously and passionately the long overdue need to examine and document the political economic dimension of language, specifically in relation to the historical global dominance of English. In so doing, O’Regan challenges established and promoted bodies of work by questioning normative and in-fashion ideologies and thinking, seeing beyond oft-celebrated sentiments and positions in order to deliver a work that is not only thought-provoking, but also of great merit and intellectual weight.

Phan Le Ha, Universiti Brunei Darussalam, Brunei

A careful, comprehensive and critical study of the intertwined tentacles of English and capitalism. John O’Regan presents here the big and the long picture of the political economy of English, showing how the global dominance of English and the development of the capitalist world-system cannot be usefully considered in isolation. A study of real importance.

Alastair Pennycook, University of Technology Sydney, Australia

In conclusion, with this seminal work on the historical and ongoing alliance of capitalism and a normative English in helping one another, O’Regan has indeed filled in a crucial ‘number of the historical and economic lacunae which have applied linguistic and sociolinguistic accounts of the spread of English as a global language’ (p. 2) not only for him as he states, but also importantly for many of us who have been calling out capitalism for what it
has been doing to us for the past several centuries.

Christian W. Chun, Applied Linguistics 2021: 1–4