Politics of Development

Over the past decade, there has been growing recognition that politics matters for development, but how? This module will explore the latest thinking about how politics can enable or constrain development.

Politics is understood as a continual process of contestation and negotiation over who gets what, where and how. This process is examined from the national to the local level, inside and outside the state, and from the formal rules of government, through to the informal ‘rules of the game’.

The module draws on a range of illustrative cases to understand how different types of political systems have evolved, how far we can usefully categorise them, and whether we can predict their influence on development. Contested debates on the links between democracy and development, the role of patronage in development and the politics of social exclusion are examined. We also explore cases where local political dynamics and popular mobilisation have pushed through key developmental reform.

Throughout the module, you will apply different theoretical lenses - including institutionalism, rational choice, power and collective action – to understand when politics is an obstacle or a solution to complex development problems.

Weekly lectures are complemented by seminars, giving syou the opportunity to apply these ideas to a range of real-world scenarios.

Learning outcomes

At the end of this module the student should be able to:

  • Distinguish between major theories of the politics of development.
  • Describe types of political systems, both formal and informal, that can operate at different levels of society.
  • Critically assess the links between formal and informal political dynamics and poverty, social inclusion and development.
  • Apply a theoretical lens to explain the political dynamics of a range of developing countries.


  • One 1,000 word written assignment (25%)
  • One 3 hour unseen exam (75%)