This course explores why governments and organisations pursue the development policies they do. Whenever experts get together to debate development policy, attention usually focuses on what all the relevant actors should be doing: Which policies should the leaders of developing countries be adopting (or discarding) to stimulate growth and reduce poverty? What new trade or aid strategies should policymakers in the industrialised world be implementing to help poorer countries develop? What should world leaders be doing to address climate change? In practice, however, people in positions of power do not always pursue the policy agendas that well-intentioned development experts say they should.
Rather than let this be a source of frustration, students who take this course will come away with a deeper understanding of the political incentives that drive development forward, or sometimes backwards, in the real world. Attention will focus on the political pressures that motivate and constrain development policymakers at all levels of government—local, national, and global—and across all sectors of the economy—public, private, and non-profit. Students will be exposed to a wide variety of political economy concepts along the way. There will also be opportunities for students to apply these concepts to concrete cases of development management and mis-management. Why do the governments of some developing countries take good care of poor rural families and their children, for example, while other governments privilege urban elites? Why have inclusive democratic institutions taken root in some developing countries but not in others?
If you are curious about the larger political forces driving some developing countries ahead while others stagnate or decline—and you want more experience putting cutting-edge political economy theories to work in solving current development problems—this course is for you.