Skip to site navigation

Political Economy of Development

Course Code: PUBLG054

Course Tutor: Dr Jonathan Kennedy (Department of Political Science)

Assessment: One 3,000 word essay

Credit Value: 15

About this course

The course Political Economy of Development deals with the current empirical reality, theory, concepts, history, and current governance and policy problems of development, poverty, and inequality. The main objective of the course is to introduce students to a range of contemporary issues in international development – including aid, financing and debt, trade, migration, and health. The course takes a critical approach to the processes of economic and human development, emphasising the interaction of politics, economics, society and culture.

Students are introduced to the different strands of development theory and the debates between these different strands. The course focuses on the way these different theoretical approaches have shaped development relations, processes, institutions, and policies; the trends and assessment of poverty, inequality and development; and the politics of how the developed industrialised world has interacted with the poorer ‘Global South’. Students will gain a thorough understanding of the concept of development and the history of the concept as well as its relation to the material processes of development. Over the duration of the course, students will learn to critically apply different theoretical perspectives on development to a range of contemporary issues.

The first few sessions introduce the concept of development; the debates over poverty and inequality; the competing theories and approaches to the study of development and their relationship with various policies, as well as the Millennium Development Goals; the contemporary development environment with a focus on the problems of debt and financing for development. The different perspectives and development context sets the foundations for the rest of the course. The majority of the course is organised around a series of issue areas, or governance problems and policy interventions. Each week the history, context, and details of an issue are introduced. Students are asked to critically assess existing policy initiatives, governance structures, and development outcomes. In reviewing these and considering alternatives students will draw upon their knowledge from the course so far, readings, and other research. The seminars and Moodle are crucial in providing the space for this process.

Suggested Preliminary Readings

  • Katie Willis (2005) Theories and Practices of Development, London: Routledge – an excellent primer for those new to development studies, easy to read through in a sitting or two.
  • Adam Szirmai (2005) The Dynamics of Socio-Economic Development: An Introduction, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press – a more advanced overview text.
  • Vandana Desai & Robert Potter (eds) (2008) The Companion to Development Studies, 2nd Edition, London: Arnold – a very useful reference text that covers many different issues in a few pages each.
  • Amartya Sen (1999) Development as Freedom, Oxford: Oxford University Press – a modern classic setting out the view that development is about expanding peoples’ real freedoms
  • Arturo Escobar (1995) Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World, Princeton: Princeton University Press – a postmodern classic setting out the view of development as a project and discourse of control and management.

Related links

Contact us

Contact us

School of Public Policy,
The Rubin Building,
29/31 Tavistock Square,
London, WC1H 9QU.
Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 4999,
Fax: +44 (0)20 7679 4978,

Postgraduate enquiries

Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 4982/4950

Register with us

Register at UCL

New website

Register at UCL

Connect with us


Page last modified on 06 jun 16 10:49

Footer menu