EC241      Half Unit
PPE Interdisciplinary Research Seminar

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Michael Callen 32L.3.18


This course is compulsory on the BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. This course is not available as an outside option nor to General Course students.

Course content

Governments serve several functions key to economic development, including correcting market failures, raising taxes, delivering services, and protecting property rights. Yet, particularly in poor countries, they often fail to do so effectively. In this course, we will explore the empirical body of evidence on what can be done to improve service delivery. We view this evidence through an analytical framework emphasizing the agency problems between citizens, politicians and bureaucrats. Correspondingly, the course is divided into four sections. We will first focus on how democratic institutions select and constrain politicians. Second, we will explore issues of bureaucratic selection and incentives affecting bureaucrats. Third, we will review evaluations of specific reforms aimed at strengthening institutions, promoting accountability, and improving service delivery. In a final section, we will explore the interactions between governance, development, and political conflict. This section emphasizes cases where subnational conflict reflects a violent competition for legitimate political control. This discussion also will relate modern efforts at state building to classical philosophical and political discussions on the creation of legitimate states. We will also focus extensively on empirical case studies of policies, reforms, and innovations that have proven effective.


10 hours of lectures and 9 hours of classes in the LT. 1 hour of lectures and 1 hour of classes in the ST.

There will be a reading week in Week 6 of LT only (no lectures or classes that week).

This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totalling a minimum of 20 hours across Lent Term.  

Formative coursework

weekly challenges and feedback will be given on two.

Indicative reading

  • Acemoglu, Daron and James Robinson, Why Nations Fail, Crown Books, 2012;
  • Besley, Timothy and Torsten Persson, Pillars of Prosperity: The Political Economics of Development Clusters, Princeton University Press, 2011


10% - Class Participation

90% - Final Essay (2,000 Words)

Key facts

Department: Economics

Total students 2021/22: 54

Average class size 2021/22: 20

Capped 2021/22: No

Lecture capture used 2021/22: Yes (LT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication