PP449      Half Unit
Comparative Political Economy and Development

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Tasha Fairfield


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), 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 course examines key issues in comparative political economy, with an emphasis on developing countries and the politics of policymaking.  Who get the policies they want, 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.  Note: the subject matter complements material covered in PP448 and can be taken either in conjunction with, or separately from that course.


Upon completing the course, students can expect to (1) be able to critically engage with the key debates in comparative politics and development, (2) be able to identify political constraints that may impede implementation of pro-development policies, (3) apply 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.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totalling a minimum of 38 hours across Lent Term. This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through virtual classes and flipped-lectures delivered as short online videos. This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of Lent Term.

Formative coursework

Students will receive feedback on formative assignments in seminars that will prepare them for the assessed DPA at the end of the term. 

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

Indicative reading


  1. Jeffrey Winters, 2013, 'Oligarchy and Democracy in Indonesia', Indonesia 96, pp.11-33 
  2. Thachil, Tariq, 2011, 'Embedded Mobilization: Non-State Service Provision as Electoral Strategy in India', World Politics 62 (3): 434-469
  3. Andrei Shleifer and Daniel Treisman, 2000, 'Without a Map: Political Tactics and Economic Reform in Russia', Cambridge: MIT Press
  4. Tasha Fairfield, 2013, 'Going Where the Money Is: Strategies for Taxing Economic Elites in Unequal Democracies', World Development 47 (July), pp.42-57


Project (40%) in the LT.
Take-home assessment (60%) in the ST.

All students will be required to take part in a Development Policy Application (DPA) project stretching over several weeks of the course.  An 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 DPA will count for 40% of the course mark.

A take-home assessment will be given in the Summer Term.  This will count for 60% of the course mark.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: School of Public Policy

Total students 2019/20: 25

Average class size 2019/20: 12

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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