School of Business and Management

Strategy (BUS204)

Semester: A
Level: 5
Module code: BUS204
Module organiser: Dr Matteo Mandarini

Module Overview

‘Strategy’ is a concept drawn from the ancient Greek and meaning ‘the art of leading an army.’ Since antiquity, its applications have been expanded from military planning and method to include systems and techniques used in football matches and other sporting contests, marketing or political campaigns, geopolitical contests between trading blocks, resistance struggles, prison escapes, terrorist plots and other situations in which people attempt to give themselves a competitive advantage, achieving desirable ends with available means. The module considers strategy in the expanded field, exploring its workings (primarily) through the changing relations between markets, states and firms over a period of some 200+ years.
This focus on historical contingency - the thought that strategy ‘plays out’ differently in different circumstances - highlights the importance of context for framing critical and analytical investigations into strategy. To give a concrete example of this, we will see that the shift, over the past 7 years from what was fundamentally a crisis of the private sector (i.e. the economic crash of 2007-08) to a ‘public’ or ‘sovereign debt’ crisis can be best explored by the dynamic relations between states and markets, and the battle over the control of resources by particular groups - and, we will see strategy as a central way by which that battle for resources is fought.

The course explores this and other notable case studies while considering some of the most significant ideas taken up within strategy, including theories and practices such as the ‘rational planning model,’ the ‘resource-based’ view of the firm, the ‘positioning school’ and the ‘strategy-as-practice’ models. It places a substantial emphasis on two key texts: Deborah Cowen’s The Deadly Life of Logistics (2014) and Peter Nolan’s Is China Buying the World? (2012), giving students the chance to develop their skills of academic review-writing in response to one of these two books.

Indicative Reading List

  • Deborah Cowen’s The Deadly Life of Logistics (2014)
  • Beverley Silver's Forces of Labor (2003)


  • Book review 50% 
  • Examination 50%