PP449      Half Unit
Comparative Political Economy and Development

This information is for the 2024/25 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Tasha Fairfield


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, 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 Health and International Development, MSc in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies, 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 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 seminars and lectures totalling a minimum of 38 hours across Winter 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 Winter Term will prepare students for the take-home assessment.

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 WT.
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 Spring Term.  This will count for 60% of the course mark.

Student performance results

(2020/21 - 2022/23 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 6.3
Merit 73
Pass 11.1
Fail 9.5

Key facts

Department: School of Public Policy

Total students 2023/24: 16

Average class size 2023/24: 8

Controlled access 2023/24: No

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