PP448      Half Unit
International Political Economy and Development

This information is for the 2019/20 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 Dual Degree (LSE and Tokyo), MPA in Public Policy and Management, MPA in Public and Economic Policy, MPA in Public and Social Policy, MPA in Social Impact, MSc in Development Studies, Master of Public Administration and Master of Public Policy. 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 all 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 new trade or aid strategies should policymakers in the industrialised world be implementing to help poorer countries develop?  What should world leaders be doing to address climate change?  In practice, however, people in positions of power do not always pursue the policy agendas that well-intentioned development experts say they should.  Rather than let this be a source of frustration, students who take this course will come away with a deeper understanding of the political incentives that drive development forward, or sometimes backwards, in the real world.  Attention will focus on the political pressures that motivate and constrain development policymakers at all levels of government - local, national and global - and across all sectors of the economy - public, private and non-profit.  Students will be exposed to a wide variety of political economy concepts along the way.  There will also be opportunities for students to apply these concepts to concrete cases of development management and mis-management.  Do international organisations such as the World Bank, the United Nations and the World Trade Organization really benefit all countries, for example - or just wealthy ones?  Why have inclusive democratic institutions taken root in some developing countries but not in others?  Are the world's poorer nations stuck with a global balance of power that favours wealthier nations, or is China's rise a global game-changer?  If you are curious about the larger political forces driving some developing countries ahead while others stagnate or decline - and you want more experience putting cutting-edge political economy theories to work in solving current development problems - this course is for you.


22 hours of lectures and 16 hours and 30 minutes of seminars in the MT.

There will be a revision session before the take-home timed assessment.

Formative coursework

Each student will be expected to deliver one practice presentation during the first few weeks of the course.  Students can expect detailed feedback on the substance of these presentations as well as their delivery (presentations will be videoed where possible).  Each student will also be invited to submit an individually-authored policy memo on one of two different questions distributed in week 2.  These memos will be handed back - with comments - shortly thereafter.  

Indicative reading

  1. Paul Collier, The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can be Done About It (Oxford, 2007)
  2. Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty (New York: Crown Publishers, 2012).
  3. Lloyd Gruber, Ruling the World: Power Politics and the Rise of Supranational Institutions (Princeton, 2000)
  4. Laurie Garrett, 'Ebola's Lessons: How the WHO Mishandled the Crisis', Foreign Affairs, vol 94, no. 5 (2015), pp. 80-107
  5. Robert Wade, Governing the Market: Economic Theory and the Role of Government in East Asian Industrialization (Princeton, 2003)
  6. Martha Finnemore and Judith Goldstein, eds., Back to Basics: State Power in a Contemporary World (Oxford, 2013)
  7. Lloyd Gruber and Stephen Kosack, "The Tertiary Tilt: Education and Inequality in the Developing World", World Development 54 (2014) pp 253-272


Presentation (20%) and policy memo (20%) in the MT.
Take-home assessment (60%) 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 – 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 policy memo on the topic.  This memo will be worth 20% 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 will take place towards the end of the term and will count for a further 20% of the overall course mark.

The take-home timed assessment is administered via Moodle on a nominated day during week 0 of Lent Term.  Students will have a 12-hour window (from 09.00-21.00 GMT) within which to access the assessment questions and complete the assessment.  Once they have logged into Moodle and downloaded the assessment questions, students will have 2 hours and 30 minutes to prepare and upload their answers.  The assessment will consist of two equally-weighted essay questions, one from Part A (broad thematic questions) and one from Part B (specific topics). Both questions will encourage students to think creatively about the ideas and arguments presented in the course.  No outside research will be required. This last component of the assessment will count for 60% of the student's overall course mark.

Key facts

Department: School of Public Policy

Total students 2018/19: 34

Average class size 2018/19: 12

Controlled access 2018/19: 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