DV449      Half Unit
Political Economy of Development II

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Tasha Fairfield CON.6.02


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

Building upon the theoretical material and applications introduced in the MT course Political Economy of Development I, this course emphasizes politics on the ground in developing countries. Who gets the policies they want, why, when, and how? Throughout, we will pay close attention to actors, interests, institutions, and power. Understanding the politics of policymaking is critical for development specialists and policy practitioners. Policies recommended by technical experts are not always politically feasible, and progress may require implementing second-best solutions. Moreover, approaches that work in one case may not work in another. Drawing on real-world examples from a range of policy domains including taxation and social spending, we will discuss strategies for enacting pro-development reforms that might otherwise be politically infeasible.  The course will also introduce students to key issues in conceptualization and measurement by examining indices and indicators of governance and democracy that are widely used by development practitioners. 

Upon completing the course, students can expect to (1) be able to critically engage with the key debates in international development, (2) be able to identify political constraints that may impede implementation of pro-development policies, (3) apply collective action, institutional, and other political economy theories to explain ‘real world’ cases of development policy successes and failures, and (4) design strategies that can help make pro-development policies more politically feasible in a given country context.


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

Formative coursework

Students will receive feedback on formative written assignments and formative presentations in seminars during the first weeks of the term that will prepare them for the assessed DPA at the end of the term. 

The two-hour revision session in LT will prepare students for the assessed exam.

Indicative reading

  1. Blanca Heredia and Ben Ross Schneider.  2003.  “The Political Economy of Administrative Reform in Developing Countries,” in Ben Ross Schneider and Blanca Heredia, Eds., Reinventing Leviathan: The Politics of Administrative Reform in Developing Countries. University of Miami: North-South Center Press.  P. 1-29.   
  2. Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson.  2010.  “Winner-Take-All Politics,” Politics and Society, 38 (2), pp. 152-204.
  3. Nicolas van de Walle. 2003.  “Presidentialism and Clientelism in Africa’s Emerging Party Systems.”  Journal of Modern African Studies 41 (2): 297-321.
  4. Thachil, Tariq.  2011.  “Embedded Mobilization:  Non-state Service Provision as Electoral Strategy in India.”  World Politics 62 (3): 434-69.
  5. Andrei Shleifer and Daniel Treisman. 2000. Without a Map. Political Tactics and Economic Reform in Russia, Cambridge: MIT Press.
  6. Kent Eaton.  2002. Politicians and Economic Reform in New Democracies: Argentina and the Philippines in the 1990s.  University Park, PA: Penn State University.
  7. Tasha Fairfield.  2013.  “Going Where the Money Is: Strategies for Taxing Economic Elites in Unequal Democracies,” World Development 47 (July), pp. 42-57.


Exam (60%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.
Presentation (15%) and other (25%) in the LT.

All students will be required to take part in a Development Policy Application (DPA) project stretching over several weeks of the course.  A specific issue of major importance to developing countries will be introduced early in the term.  Students will be assigned into small groups, and each group will pick a country of its choice for the project.  The project is assessed through a group-authored policy memo (worth 25%) and an accompanying oral presentation (worth 15%).  The DPA will count for 40% of the course mark.

A cumulative, 2-hour final exam will be given in the Summer Term.  The exam will count for 60% 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