Malcolm Fairbrother has studied the politics of international economic policymaking, and particularly the origins of recent (post-1980s) economic globalisation. His work explicitly contrasts the experiences of developed and developing, and hegemonic and subordinate economies, using a comparative-historical study of regional integration among Canada, Mexico, and the United States.
In 2006-2007 he spent a year as a postdoctoral Visiting Research Fellow at the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at the University of California, San Diego. More recently he has started projects on the mental health consequences of neoliberal economic policies, and (with departmental colleagues Mark Jackson and Katerina Michaelides) the social determinants of land degradation in India. He uses and is interested in both qualitative and quantitative research methods.