The Politics of International Development - PO904

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2018-19
(version 2)
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7 20 (10) DR B Savic







This module studies how power relations shape the policy and academic practice of International Development. It helps the students rethink critically the ideas and realities of wealth, hunger, poverty, health, (in)equality, economic growth, and progress. It consists of four core elements. First, the course examines how power relations have shaped the origins and meanings of development ideas and images integral to them (those of backwardness, failure, misery, hunger, progress, wealth, etc.). It problematizes the historical role and legacy of colonialism and exploitation of humans and natural resources as inseparable from the riddles of poverty and (un)successful economic growth across formerly colonized spaces. Second, the module goes on to analyze the mainstream framings and definitions of development problems as well as some of the historically deployed solutions, interventions, strategies, and models of growth and development. The third part of the course consists of a detailed study of state, interstate and non-state development actors, their development agendas, approaches, instruments and track records, as well as the aid and international trade regimes that they have established to tackle "underdevelopment" and poverty across the globe. Finally, the survey of international development structures and actors concludes with an inquiry into the potentials and prospects for alternative, more equitable, more inclusive and more effective approaches to human welfare and safety.


This module appears in:


Autumn Term

Method of assessment

Students write one essay of approximately 5000 words answering one question related to the topics dealt with in the lectures and seminars.

Indicative reading

Césaire, Aimé (2001) Discourse on Colonialism. New York: New York University Press

Easterly, William (2008) (ed.) Reinventing Foreign Aid. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press

Easterly, William (2006) The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Escobar, Arturo (2012) Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press?

Ferguson, James (1994) The Anti-Politics Machine: Development, Depoliticization, and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

Mitchell, Timothy (2002) Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-politics, Modernity. Berkeley: University of California Press

Mitchell, Timothy (ed.) (2000) Questions of Modernity. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

Potter, Robert et al (2008) Geographies of Development: An Introduction to Development Studies. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited. Third Edition?
Rist, Gilbert (2008). The History of Development: From Western Origins to Global Faith, 3rd edition. London & New York: Zed Books

Said, Edward (1978) Orientalism. New York: Pantheon Books (Random House)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes and, as appropriate, their relationship to programme learning outcomes
On successful completion of the module, students will be able to
- understand, and be able to locate contemporary debates on politics of development in a broader theoretical and historical perspective;
- relate empirical problems in Latin America, Africa and Asia, to the modes of intervention of the major development institutions (UN System, IMF, World Bank) and be able to reflect critically on the appropriateness of that mode of intervention, with reference to the theoretical background of policy prescriptions;
- understand and be able to evaluate critically dominant theoretical models (such as modernisation theory and dependency theory) within the contexts in which they were developed in the post-WW2 decades
- be able to analyse the politics of development, showing an appreciation of the post-WW2 theoretical debates and the practice of development
- assess the role of international institutions (such as the UNDP, IMF, and World Bank) in formulating policies, as well as the specific content these policies, in the context of empirical cases that show the successes, failures and problems of development politics
- show sensitivity to the historical and geopolitical context of politics of development, relating national and regional debates to the processes of global politics;
- identify the practical and ethical problems and limits of policy agendas (such as MDGs, UN reform,)

These specific learning outcomes contribute to achieving the learning outcomes of our postgraduate programmes by demonstrating knowledge of the following:
• key concepts, theories and methods used in the study of politics and international relations and their application to the analysis of political ideas, institutions, practices and issues in the global arena
• the political dynamics of interaction between people, events, ideas and institutions
• the contestable nature of many concepts and different approaches to the study of Politics and International Relations
• the normative and positive foundations of political ideas
• the nature and significance of politics as a global activity
• different interpretations of world political events and issues.

The intended generic learning outcomes and, as appropriate, their relationship to programme learning outcomes
Students who successfully complete this module
- will be able to work with theoretical knowledge and apply theory to practical issues
- will be aware of the ethical dimensions of the scholarly work done in their discipline in general as well as in their own work
- will be able to undertake analysis of complex, incomplete or contradictory areas of knowledge and make carefully constructed arguments
- will have a level of conceptual understanding that will allow them to critically evaluate research, policies, and practices
- will be reflective and self-critical in their work
- will be able to use the internet, bibliographic search engines, online resources, and effectively conduct research
- will be able to engage in academic and professional communication with others
- will have independent learning ability required for further study or professional work

By helping students to progress towards these generic learning outcomes, the module contributes to achieving the general aims of our undergraduate programmes, which aim to:
• Provide the tools to evaluate different interpretations of world political events and issues;
• Communicate effectively and fluently in speech and writing;
• Use communication and information technology for the retrieval and presentation of information;
• identify, investigate, analyse, formulate and advocate solutions to problems;
• develop reasoned arguments, synthesise relevant information and exercise critical judgement
• Work independently, demonstrating initiative, self-organization and time-management

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