DV448      Half Unit
Political Economy of Development I

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Lloyd Gruber CON.6.03


This course is compulsory on the MPA in International Development. This course is available on the MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Columbia), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Hertie), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and NUS), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Sciences Po), MPA in European Public and Economic Policy, MPA in Public Policy and Management, MPA in Public and Economic Policy, MPA in Public and Social Policy and MSc in Development Studies. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This half-unit MT course explores why governments and organisations pursue the development policies they do.  Whenever experts get together to debate development policy, attention usually focuses on what the relevant actors should be doing:  Which policies should the leaders of developing countries be adopting (or discarding) to stimulate growth and reduce poverty?  What kinds of strategies should policymakers in the industrialised world be implementing to help poorer countries develop?  Much of the time, however, the people who hold positions of power in developing countries do not do what outsiders say they should.  Sometimes they choose – and even institutionalize – protectionist, redistributive, and "statist" policies frowned upon by outside analysts, who find them misguided and self-defeating.  Students who take this course can expect to acquire a deeper understanding of the forces that can bias political and organisational actors toward development policies whose long-run effects are socially, politically, or economically suboptimal.  Students will also be given opportunities to apply these conceptual insights to concrete cases of development management and mis-management.  In sum, the course is designed for students who want more experience putting collective action, institutional, and other cutting-edge political economy theories to use in solving current development problems at different levels of government – global, national, and local – and across different sectors of the economy – public, private, and non-profit.


22 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the MT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce one practice memo and one practice presentation.  A ‘formative’ Development Policy Application (DPA) question will be assigned in the first weeks of the course, and students will be encouraged, although not required, to submit individually-authored policy memos by the beginning of week 3.  These memos will be handed back – with comments – shortly thereafter (by the end of week 4 at the very latest).

In addition, practice DPA presentations will be held (and, where possible, videoed) during special sessions arranged in week 3.  The members of each DPA group will be given feedback on substance as well as presentational style during their week 3 seminars.  Students will be encouraged to attend office hours to receive more individualized feedback.

Indicative reading

  1. Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty (New York: Crown Publishers, 2012).
  2. Paul Collier, The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can be Done About It (Oxford, 2007).
  3. Lloyd Gruber, Ruling the World: Power Politics and the Rise of Supranational Institutions (Princeton, 2000)
  4. Robert Wade, Governing the Market: Economic Theory and the Role of Government in East Asian Industrialization (Princeton, 2003)
  5. Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom (Oxford, 1999)
  6. Lloyd Gruber and Stephen Kosack, “The Tertiary Tilt: Education and Inequality in the Developing World,” World Development 54 (2014) pp.253-272.
  7. Dani Rodrik, The Globalization Paradox:  Democracy and the Future of the World Economy (W. W. Norton & Company, 2011).


Essay (15%), presentation (15%) and take home exam (70%) in the MT.

All students will be required to take part in a Development Policy Application (DPA) project stretching over several weeks of the course.  A specific – and current – issue of major importance to developing countries will be introduced in the first week of this exercise.  Each student will then be asked to prepare an individually-authored essay (policy memo) on the topic.  This memo will be worth 15% of the overall course mark.

In the second part of the exercise, students will be randomly assigned into small groups and begin preparing a jointly-delivered oral presentation outlining and defending their group’s preferred policy.  These presentations – which will count for an additional 15% of the overall course mark – will take place the following week.

An individually-authored essay (or set of essays) totalling a maximum of 4,000 words will be assigned at the end of the course.  The essay question(s) will ask students to think creatively about the ideas and arguments presented to that point in the course, but will not require any outside research.  This component of the assessment will count for 70% of the course mark.

Key facts

Department: International Development

Total students 2014/15: Unavailable

Average class size 2014/15: Unavailable

Controlled access 2014/15: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills