The Politics of International Development - POLI9040

Looking for a different module?

Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


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.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 24
Private study hours: 176
Total study hours: 200


MA International Development

Method of assessment

Peer Assessment (20%)
Essay (80%)

Reassessment methods: 100% coursework

Indicative reading

Reading list (Indicative list, current at time of publication. Reading lists will be published annually)

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)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes. On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. understand, and be able to locate contemporary debates on politics of development in a broader theoretical and historical perspective

2. relate empirical problems in Latin America, Africa, and Asia to the modes of intervention of the major development institutions (UN System, IMF, World Bank), assess their roles in the formulation of global/regional development policies and reflect critically on the appropriateness of their interventions, with reference to the theoretical background of policy prescriptions;

3. 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

4. show sensitivity to the historical and geopolitical context of politics of development, relating national and regional debates to the processes of global politics;

5. identify the practical and ethical problems and limits of policy agendas (such as SDGs, MDGs, UN reform)

The intended generic learning outcomes. On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. work with theoretical knowledge and apply theory to practical issues

2. demonstrate awareness of the ethical dimensions of the scholarly work done in their discipline in general as well as in their own work

3. undertake analysis of complex, incomplete or contradictory areas of knowledge and make carefully constructed arguments

4. demonstrate a level of conceptual understanding that will allow them to critically evaluate research, policies, and practices

5. reflect upon and critique their work

6. use the Internet, bibliographic search engines, online resources, and effectively conduct research

7. engage in academic and professional communication with others

8. show and grow independent learning ability required for further study or professional work.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
Back to top

University of Kent makes every effort to ensure that module information is accurate for the relevant academic session and to provide educational services as described. However, courses, services and other matters may be subject to change. Please read our full disclaimer.