POL S 449 A: Politics of Developing Areas

Summer Term: 
Meeting Time: 
TTh 9:40am - 11:50am
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Syllabus Description:

The full syllabus is available under the Files section.


Course Description

This course is intended to provide students with a survey of topics related to the politics of developing areas.  While there is no explicit regional focus, you can expect a lot of examples to come from the African continent, given my own research interests; that said, we will examine other regions of the world, and the paper assignment will give you the option to investigate specific cases that interest you.  To maintain clarity across a wide array of countries and topics, we will focus on the following questions:


Why are some countries poor while others are not?

What explains the global variation in standards of living, income per capita, etc.?  In order to learn about the politics of developing areas, we begin by examining explanations for why some countries fall into this group.  These explanations include factor endowments, natural resources, colonialization, and political institutions. 


Why are some individuals/groups in these countries poor and/or politically marginalized, while others are wealthy and/or powerful?

Why do some groups enjoy privileged positions, while others struggle under conditions of poverty and violence?  Why do states enforce the rights of some groups and not others?  Why are some communities able to collectively manage resources while others are unsuccessful?  This section of the course covers a diverse collection of topics, including ethnic politics, agrarian policies, and the management of common pool resources. 


Why is it hard to reform?

Why don’t governments always create effective policies and institutions?  What are market failures?  Do we know what programs would actually be most effective in alleviating the problems we are concerned with?  What is the role for international forces in this process (e.g. donors, NGOs, international organizations)?  This section will deal with the politics of reform, and review some of the evidence for what solutions exist for problems that affect the poor.



Course Requirements

Participation: 25%

Peer review report: 15%

Paper draft: 30%

Final paper: 30%


There is no textbook assigned for this class; each of the assigned readings will be available through the Canvas site for the class.  Some of the readings I have assigned are quite challenging, by design.  Do your best to glean what you can, and note the parts that you do not understand so that we can discuss them in class.  This is a small, discussion-based class, and therefore it is important for you to be well-prepared for class each day.  I will ask students to take the lead in discussion as much as possible.  Note that the readings are subject to change, with a reasonable amount of forewarning. 



Active participation has real benefits for achieving learning outcomes, and is rewarded accordingly in this class.  Students are expected to have read carefully and thoroughly.  I will be making adjustments to how participation is assessed, given that instruction will be remote for at least the first half of the class, if not the entire summer term; this will include an option to participate with written comments on the readings.  The other formal assessment is the research paper, which is intended to give students an opportunity to explore a topic of particular interest, and to hone their writing skills.  The paper assignment is structured in order to help students to produce a meaningful, polished product by the end of the course.  A complete, 10-12 page (including references) draft will be due roughly by week 7.  Students will then complete an anonymous peer-review process of each other's papers.  The final draft will be 12-15 pages (including references).  


I plan to use a mix of pre-recorded (short) lecture videos as well as class discussion.  Thus we will not come together as a class for the full 130 minutes of class time.  More information on this will follow once enrollment has progressed.

Catalog Description: 
Comparative study of problems of national integration and political development in the new states of Asia and Africa.
Department Requirements: 
Comparative Politics Field
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
September 30, 2020 - 9:06pm