Authoritarianism and Development

School: School of Government
International Development Department

Modular value: 20 credits
Term long 
Contact Hours: 
3 hours per week

Module Convenors: Jonathan Fisher

Aim of the Module

The political systems and regimes which govern developing countries – and the ideologies, rationales and structures which underpin and sustain them – play a major role in shaping development. Where once authoritarian systems and rulers were perceived to be on the wrong side of the “end of history”, now they are ascendant or consolidating in many parts of the developing world. Policy-makers and scholars remain divided, however, on the relationship between authoritarianism and development, with some authoritarian systems critiqued as abusive, violent and incompetent and others lauded as “developmental states”.

This module introduces students to a range of issues at the heart of these debates, drawing comparisons between – and within - countries and regions across the developing world. It looks in particular at different forms and understandings of authoritarianism in the contemporary era and the different ways of seeing its relationship to development. In addition, it explores a number of key themes including the theory and practice of the “developmental state”, the nature of “semi-authoritarianism”,  the links between aid, foreign policy and authoritarianism and the factors underpinning sustained or collapsing authoritarian systems.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Critically analyse core concepts and theories relating to authoritarian systems and rule in the developing world.
  • Critically analyse and explain the relationship between authoritarianism and development across a range of settings. 
  • Describe and explain the relationship between authoritarian rule and other political, economic and social phenomena, nationally, regionally and internationally.
  • Apply theoretical and conceptual debates on authoritarianism to practical contexts and scenarios.


  • 2 assignments of 2,500 words each, weighted 50% each
  • Reassessment: Resubmission of failed assignments (2,500 words)

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