MSc Environmental Governance

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
The Politics and Governance of Development

Course unit fact file
Unit code MGDI60391
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course unit examines the ways in which politics and governance shapes development outcomes, including variation in patterns of accumulation, inequality and poverty, within the constraints of a changing global economy and increasingly transnationalised policy processes. Students will interrogate the main theories of the politics of development, including those concerning states, classes, institutions and ethnic groups. These competing theories will be used to examine different thematic issues in country case studies from across the global south. Students will be introduced to the main theoretical developments and critical issues in the field, and encouraged to explore these in interactive teaching and learning workshops. Case-study evidence will be used to both elaborate and test theory, and to illustrate the links between politics, governance and development in practice.


The unit aims to provide:

• A critical overview of the major theoretical approaches to understanding the links between politics, governance and development

• Insights into how politics, governance and development interact in the global South

• A critical overview of existing research regarding the ways politics shapes patterns of accumulation, distribution and recognition; and

• An opportunity for students to develop their range of competencies in transferable areas, including research, analysis, team-work and both written and verbal forms of communication

Learning outcomes

The aim is to provide a module that interrogates the key political discourses about and within development policy and practice for the benefit of practitioners, policy-makers, and future negotiators in the state and global governance terrain. The political theory provided aims to equip students with an essential toolbox of concepts in political analysis. Alongside this, the module aims to illustrate the spontaneity of politics in reality, and its resistance to management and intervention

Knowledge and understanding

Develop a thorough knowledge and critical understanding of different theoretical approaches to investigating the politics and governance of development;

Define, explain and use key concepts and identify illustrative real world examples of these concepts;

Intellectual skills

Apply key concepts to select empirical cases and use this analysis to formulate a coherent argument regarding how politics shapes development outcomes;

Critically evaluate the relative explanatory power of different theoretical approaches;

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Demonstrate competence in transferable areas, including: developing reasoned arguments; gathering, organising and using evidence and information from a wide variety of sources; working to deadlines; and written forms of communication.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 30%
Written assignment (inc essay) 70%

Feedback methods

Written feedback on assignments, comments on brief essay plans and availability during weekly office hours.

Recommended reading

Recommended reading

Albertus, M., 2015. Autocracy and Redistribution. Cambridge University Press.

Amsden, A.H., 1992. Asia’s Next Giant: South Korea and Late Industrialization. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Boone, C., 2007. Property and constitutional order: Land tenure reform and the future of the African state. African Affairs, 106 (425), 557–586.

Doner, R.F., 2009. The Politics of Uneven Development: Thailand’s Economic Growth in Comparative Perspective. Cambridge University Press.

Doner, R.F., Ritchie, B.K., and Slater, D., 2005. Systemic Vulnerability and the Origins of Developmental States: Northeast and Southeast Asia in Comparative Perspective. International Organization, 59 (2), 327–361.

Garay, C., 2016. Social Policy Expansion in Latin America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kohli, A., 2004. State-Directed Development: Political Power and Industrialization in the Global Periphery. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Leftwich, A. (2005). ‘Politics in Command: Development Studies and the Rediscovery of Social Science’. New Political Economy 10, 573-607.

Migdal, Joel S. 1988. Strong Societies and Weak States: State-Society Relations and State Capabilities in the Third World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Mkandawire, T., 2001. Thinking about developmental states in Africa. Cambridge Journal of Economics, 25 (3), 289–314.

North, D.C., Wallis, J.J., and Weingast, B.R., 2009. Violence and Social Orders: A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Parsons, Craig. 2007. How to Map Arguments in Political Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Singh, P., 2015. How Solidarity Works for Welfare: Subnationalism and Social Development in India. Cambridge University Press.

Soifer, H., 2015. State Building in Latin America. Cambridge University Press.

Vu, T., 2010. Paths to Development in Asia: South Korea, Vietnam, China, and Indonesia. Cambridge University Press.

Whitfield, L., Therkildsen, O., Buur, L., and Kjær, A.M., 2015. The Politics of African Industrial Policy: A Comparative Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wimmer, A., 2018. Nation Building: Why Some Countries Come Together While Others Fall Apart. Princeton University Press.

Woo, J., 1991. Race to the swift: state and finance in Korean industrialization. New York: Columbia University Press.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 30
Independent study hours
Independent study 120

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Thomas Lavers Unit coordinator

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