BSc Global Development

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
The State and the Political Economy of Development

Course unit fact file
Unit code MGDI20281
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course unit will examine the vital role played by the state in shaping development outcomes such as patterns of growth, inequality and poverty. It will provide an overview of the strengths and limitations of state intervention to promote accumulation and redistribution. A central concern will be to explore the historical processes shaping variation in state capacity to promote development and the political economy factors that shape decision making of government officials. In doing so, the course will enable students to acquire a nuanced understanding of the reasons for divergent roles of the state between countries and the impacts of this on development outcomes.


  • A critical overview of the major theoretical approaches to conceptualising the state
  • Insights into how states shape the political economy of development in the global South
  • A critical overview of existing research regarding the ways states shape 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


Part I: What is the state?

  1. The origins of states
  2. The state and capitalism
  3. The colonial state
  4. The state and the international arena
  5. The state and society
  6. Democratising the state

Part II: What can states do?

  1. Financing the state
  2. The state and accumulation
  3. The state and redistribution
  4. The state and recognition
  5. Review session

Teaching and learning methods

The course is delivered through weekly lectures and tutorials that will include group work activities including group discussions, student presentations, case study analysis and debates based on the essential advance readings. Students will also be expected to read around the topic using the ‘further reading’ lists provided. In particular, the course will comprise:

  • Weekly lectures (2 hours) that provide an overview of the topic and key issues within it, with space set aside for regular small group discussions of cases, problems and questions to relate lecture content to readings and core themes;
  • Weekly tutorials (1 hour) that will employ a variety of group-based activities including role plays, debates, case study analysis and discussion of key readings. These tutorials require advanced preparation and are aimed to link topics covered in the lectures and readings to real world examples, and are a key part of the preparation for both assignments.

All slides and essential readings will be provided on Blackboard in advance. All lectures will also be recorded and the recordings will be accessible through the course’s Blackboard site.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate a thorough knowledge and critical understanding of different theoretical approaches to conceptualising the state and its role in development processes
  • Define, explain and use key concepts, and identify illustrative real world examples of these concepts

Intellectual skills

  • Develop and utilise core analytical and critical skills through in-class discussions and individual research projects
  • Apply key concepts to select empirical cases and use this analysis to formulate a coherent argument regarding how states shape development outcomes

Practical skills

  • Utilise a range of sources of empirical information and critically evaluate the empirical basis of different theoretical approaches

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Organize quantitative and qualitative evidence and information from a wide variety of sources to develop reasoned arguments
  • Work to deadlines
  • Communicate effectively in various formats, including writing and through a video podcast

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 75%
Oral assessment/presentation 25%

Feedback methods

Verbal feedback: Students will have the opportunity to request and receive non-evaluative, specific feedback on their ideas about their assessments during tutorials immediately prior to the submission of each assessment.

Verbal feedback will be provided one week prior to due date of each assessment

Verbal feedback on students’ assessment planning and ideas will help to identify misunderstandings and provide tailored support in an efficient manner before assessments are due.

Recommended reading

Boone, C., 2003. Political Topographies of the African State: Territorial Authority and Institutional Choice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Caporaso, J.A. and Levine, D.P., 1992. Theories of Political Economy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Centeno, M., Kohli, A., and Yashar, D.J., eds., 2017. States in the Developing World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Geddes, B., 1994. Politician’s Dilemma: Building State Capacity in Latin America. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Gerth, H.H. and Mills, C.W., 2003. From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology. London: Routledge.

Hassan, M., 2020. Regime Threats and State Solutions: Bureaucratic Loyalty and Embeddedness in Kenya. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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

Levitsky, S. and Way, L.A., 2010. Competitive authoritarianism: Hybrid regimes after the cold war. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mamdani, M., 1996. Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Mann, M., 1986. The Sources of Social Power: Volume 1, A History of Power from the Beginning to AD 1760. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mann, M., 2012. The Sources of Social Power: Volume 2, The Rise of Classes and Nation-States, 1760-1914. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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

Migdal, J.S., 2001. State in Society: Studying How States and Societies Transform and Constitute One Another. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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

Scott, J.C., 1998. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. London: Yale University Press.

Scott, J.C., 2017. Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States. Yale University Press.

Skocpol, T., 1979. States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia and China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Slater, D., 2010. Ordering Power: Contentious Politics and Authoritarian Leviathans in Southeast Asia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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

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

Waldner, D., 1999. State Building and Late Development. State Building and Late Development. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Tutorials 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Thomas Lavers Unit coordinator

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