DV423      Half Unit
Global Political Economy of Development

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Robert Wade CON.7.07


This course is available on the Global MSc in Management, Global MSc in Management (MBA Exchange), MSc in Development Management, MSc in Development Management (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in Development Studies, MSc in Economic Policy for International Development, MSc in Environment and Development, MSc in Global Politics, MSc in Health and International Development, MSc in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies and MSc in Political Economy of Late Development. This course is not available as an outside option.

Students will be allocated places to courses with priority to ID and joint-degree students. If there are more ID and joint-degree students than the course can accommodate, these spots will be allocated randomly.  

Non-ID/Joint Degree students will be allocated to spare places by random selection with the preference given first to those degrees where the regulations permit this option.


Undergraduate economics gives a big advantage, but is not pre-requisite.

Course content

The course takes off from “the Great Divergence”, the relentlessly growing gap during the past two and more centuries  between the average income, average living conditions, of the West  and that of most regions and countries of the South. Northeast Asia is the only non-western region to have substantially caught up. How do we explain this central fact of the “wealth of nations” – which is all the more shocking in light of the large-scale western aid industry operating since the Second World War? Much of development studies treats development as analogous to a marathon race, in which each runner’s (country’s) rank is independent of the rank of others; there is no structure to the race (to development) such that some must be ahead and others must be behind. This is deeply misleading. Questions about appropriate development policies and institutions at country level have to be put in the context of the hierarchically ordered world economy and world polity, led since the Second World War by the US with its subordinate European states and Japan. At a minimum we have to change the analogy to a mountain race, in which lead runners can throw down ladders to help selected lagging runners (“development by invitation”) and also throw down rocks to block the progress of others. But that analogy too is unsatisfactory.

The course covers the performance of the world economy as a whole (eg trends in growth, inequality, poverty, going back to the Industrial Revolution and before); the emergence of the emergence of British and then American hegemony in the world-system; international systems of production, trade, and finance; the rules or regimes which govern interaction between economies, states and firms (regimes such as Bretton Woods, the Post Bretton Woods dollar standard, Investor-State Dispute Settlement, etc.); and several international organisations (such as the World Bank,  IMF, UNCTAD, G20). Along the way it analyses the major financial/economic crises of the 1980s, 1997-99 and 2007-09.

It is set in the context of “Global Political Economy”, a variety more closely related to Economics than its cousin, “International Political Economy”, which is more closely tied to International Relations.  In contrast to the mostly western-centric literature in International Political Economy, DV423 looks at the above subjects  from the perspective of low and middle-income countries in the spirit of the Swahili proverb, "Until the lions have their own historians, tales of hunting will always glorify the hunters"; and does not assume that the (all western, with the addition of Japan) G7 states and their international rules provide a generally benign (‘win-win’) environment for development in the rest of the world (as in the G7/IMF/World Bank/OECD/World Economic Forum mindset, “free trade and free capital mobility benefits all of us”).


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures and seminars in the Autumn Term. Seminars will be one and a half hours and lectures will be one and a half hours.

There will be a reading week in Week 6.

Formative coursework

Students have the option of writing one essay of 2,000 words in Autumn Term.

Indicative reading

Core text: John Ravenhill (ed), Global Political Economy, 6th edition, OUP, 2020.


Take-home assessment (100%) in January.

The paper will be released via the course Moodle site. Please note that as this is a 48 hour take-home examination in January ("Take home" is subject to revision). Students who cannot commit to be available for the exam period may NOT register for this course.

Student performance results

(2019/20 - 2021/22 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 47.2
Merit 51.7
Pass 1.1
Fail 0

Key facts

Department: International Development

Total students 2022/23: 76

Average class size 2022/23: 15

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

Lecture capture used 2022/23: Yes (MT)

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.