SOAS University of London

Department of Development Studies

Theory, policy and practice of development

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Full Year

This module provides a grounding in the Sociology and Politics of development, that is complementary to compulsory module II in the MSc Development Studies on the Political Economy of Development.

The first term explores theoretical ideas and debates about development, with a historical perspective. Those ideas and debates are better understood when located in the historical contexts and conditions that generate them, that shape what issues and problems are identified, how they are identified, how solutions to them are sought – and by whom: what kinds of people. This, in effect, puts questions of agency at the centre of understanding development ideas and policies.

The second term builds on the first to explore the application of ideas covered in the first term to specific areas and issues of development policy and different kinds of agency.
Students attend a weekly lecture and participate in a weekly seminar group. Seminar sessions include student presentations and group discussion of assigned readings related to the lecture topics.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

By the end of the module you should be able to command and demonstrate the following knowledge and skills:

  • An historical and critical understanding of sociological and political theories of development
  • A capacity to make an independent analysis and assessment of the assumptions, logic, and modalities - including views of agency - of different development ideas and models, and their applications.
  • An ability to distinguish and assess analytical, prescriptive and empirical claims, and how effectively/ plausibly they are combined and deployed in different models of development theory, policy and practice
  • An ability to handle complex ideas and express your own view of them in a structured, clear and economical manner


Teaching takes place through a weekly 2 hour lecture and 1 hour tutorial.

Method of assessment

50% examination, 50% coursework. Each student will be expected to submit two essays of no more than 3000 words each, each worth 25%. Resubmission of coursework regulations apply.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules