PP448      Half Unit
International Political Economy and Development

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Chris Sabatini


This course is available on the Double Master of Public Administration (LSE-Columbia), Double Master of Public Administration (LSE-Sciences Po), Double Master of Public Administration (LSE-University of Toronto), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Hertie), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and NUS), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Tokyo), MPA in Data Science for Public Policy, 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.

This course has a limited number of places (it is controlled access) and demand is typically very high. Priority is given to students from the School of Public Policy, students from other programmes will be considered if places remain.

Course content

This half-unit Autumn Term course explores the challenges developing countries face in pursuing economic and political development. Matters of state-society relations, insertion into the global economy, structure versus agency, political economy, the role of multilateral institutions, development assistance and private investment, and the importance of institutions have been heavily researched and discussed in academia and policymaking circles. Those discussions and issues have also shaped policy debates and policy (and not always in a good way) in international development and domestic policymaking and politics. Despite the lack of physical fashion sense among academics, these theories go in and out of fashion, with implications for international and domestic development policymaking.

This course will examine these theories and understanding of development over the years—from the modernization theories of the 1950s and 1960s, to dependency theory of the 1960s and 1970s, to the wave of neoliberal reforms and new-institutionalism of the 1980s and 1990s and, last, to the rise of China and its implications for global understanding of development and international development policy. In this course, through this literature students will gain an understanding of the legacies of state formation, international political economy and the relationship to inclusive democratic institutions and their relationship to development and economic policymaking.

But this class is intended to be a practical introduction to policymaking as well. So, while we will draw on these theories to understand development, we will seek to apply them to analyse and respond to real-work challenges to development today. Policymaking of all kinds and at all levels (local, state, national, global) takes place in a political environment that shapes how political actors identify specific policy preferences, seek to advance their own goals and realize their own visions of how the world ought to be and weigh options and trade offs. Public policy professionals must navigate the intersecting realms of political institutions, multiple political actors and stakeholders, political ideas and discourse, and the capacity of bureaucracies to successfully and independently implement and evaluate those policies. To this end, students will learn how to identify a development ‘problem’, how to organize and select policy options and challenges to address that issue, how to conduct a stakeholder analysis, how to account for bureaucratic inadequacies for implementation, and how to objectively evaluate the impact of the intended policy and make any necessary adjustments.  

With this background, the objectives of this course are:

  • To enable students to understand international political economy and the historic challenges of development in different contexts and across different policy realms (poverty alleviation, combatting climate change, gender inclusiveness, etc). 
  • To help students become effective participants in public policymaking, as policy analysts, administrators and advocates by gaining tools to help them assess international and domestic contexts, recognize the unique challenges that they impose and explore what motivates and constrains the various actors within those contexts.
  • To anticipate the issues and challenges that arise in development policy in different political environments, whether local, state, national or international arenas.
  • To recognize the competing interests and strategic alternatives that surround development, particularly in different political contexts, and why this recognition is necessary in policy analysis.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures and seminars totalling a minimum of 30 hours across Autumn Term.

Formative coursework

Students will be provided with regular feedback on their work during the term.

Indicative reading

  1. Paul Collier, The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can be Done About It (Oxford, 2007)
  2. Lloyd Gruber, Ruling the World: Power Politics and the Rise of Supranational Institutions (Princeton, 2000)
  3. Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty (New York: Crown Publishers, 2012).
  4. Robert Wade, Governing the Market: Economic Theory and the Role of Government in East Asian Industrialization (Princeton, 2003)
  5. Martha Finnemore and Judith Goldstein, eds., Back to Basics: State Power in a Contemporary World (Oxford, 2013)


Coursework (20%) and policy memo (30%) in the AT.
Take-home assessment (50%) in the WT.

Student performance results

(2019/20 - 2021/22 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 16.1
Merit 74.7
Pass 9.2
Fail 0

Key facts

Department: School of Public Policy

Total students 2022/23: 43

Average class size 2022/23: 22

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.

Personal development skills

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