SOAS University of London

Department of Development Studies

The Political Economy and Sociology of Development

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This is the core module for the MSc International Development. It draws on the long-standing success of our on-campus MSc Development Studies degree. The Political economy and Sociology of Development equips students with a thorough theoretical understanding of development studies, drawing on the key disciplines of sociology and economics. The module is founded on the history of thought on development studies, identifying and critiquing the intellectual journey, trends, the associated policies and the dominance of the neoliberal agenda in development policy and practice.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • present a critical understanding of the main economic, political and sociological-anthropological theories of development. Knowledge of present core policy issues of development internationally and nationally, and of proposals for their practical solution; combine theoretical knowledge with case study/empirical knowledge;
  • analyse and explain data problems in developing countries. Awareness of different research methodologies, including case studies, quantitative analysis, surveys, etc. Development of skills in asking critical questions of commonly used datasets and evidence-based claims. Understanding roots of conflicting estimates and interpretations. Knowledge of main relevant data sources;


Learning materials will be delivered (100%) via the VLE moodle with resources drawn from the SOAS library and the University of London Online library. Learning is focused upon free-form and structured discussion and both these and the materials are supported by a dedicated Associate Tutor (one per 15 students).

Online Learning provision allows for a range of innovative and engaging teaching techniques to be used.

The course will employ a range of proven student focused assessments. These will be on-line activities known as “e-tivities”. They are specifically designed to meet the programme's learning outcomes. 

  • E-tivity 1 – Access and Socialisation 0% (of course assessment)
  • E-tivity 2 – Library Information retrieval  5%
  • E-tivity 3 – Literature critique (directed) 5%
  • E-tivity 4 – Essay Proposal 15%
  • E-tivity 5 – Literature critique (bespoke) 5%
  • E-tivity 6 – 4500-5000 word essay 70%


These E-tivities can be resubmitted.

Scope and syllabus

For reference: the final syllabus will be developed by the STF in collaboration with relevant colleagues.

  • Imposing and inventing development
  • National development, the state and planning
  • Neoliberalism and good governance
  • Gender and the development paradigm
  • Alternative development
  • Poverty, PRSPs and beyond
  • Measuring development
  • Inequality – national and international
  • Neoclassical economics
  • Marxism and structuralism
  • New institutionalism and the Washington Consensus
  • Industrialisation and growth
  • Labour and labour markets

Method of assessment

  • E-tivity 1 – Access and Socialisation 0% (of course assessment)
  • E-tivity 2 – Library Information retrieval  5%
  • E-tivity 3 – Literature critique (directed) 5%
  • E-tivity 4 – Essay Proposal 15%
  • E-tivity 5 – Literature critique (bespoke) 5%
  • E-tivity 6 – 4500-5000 word essay 70%

Suggested reading

Core Reading:

  • Acemoglu, D. and Robinson, J. (2013) Economics versus Politics: Pitfalls of Policy Advice, Journal of Economic Perspectives, vol. 27, no. 2: 173-192.
  • Baldwin, R. (2016) ‘The World Trade Organization and the Future of Multilateralism’, Journal of Economic Perspectives 30 (1), pp.95-116.
  • Harriss, J. (2002) ‘The Case for Cross-Disciplinarity Approaches in International Development’, World Development 30 (3), pp.487-496.
  • Milanovic, B. (2012). 'Global Income Inequality in Numbers: in History and Now'. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper n. 6259.
  • Muiu, Mueni wa, 2010, "Colonial and Postcolonial State and Development in Africa." Social Research, vol. 77 no. 4, pp. 1311-1338.
  • Palma, Gabriel (2011) 'Homogeneous Middles vs. Heterogeneous Tails, and the End of the 'Inverted-U': It's All About the Share of the Rich', in Development and Change, Issue 42, No. 1 87-153.
  • R. Venugopal, 2015, "Neoliberalism as a Concept." Economy and Society, 44(2) pp 165-187.
  • Radice, H. 2008, 'The Developmental State under Global Neoliberalism', Third World Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 6, pp. 1153-1174.
  • Ravailion, M. (2010) Mashup Indices of Development, World Bank Research Paper No. 5432. Washington, D.C.: World Bank
  • Todaro, M. and Smith, S. (2009), Economic Development. London: Addison-Wesley.  chapter 1: ‘Classic Theories of Economic Growth and Development ‘  pp.109-122.
  • Additional Reading:
  • A. Saad-Filho, 2015, ‘Social Policy for Neoliberalism: The Bolsa Familia Programme in Brazil’, Development and Change 46(6): 1227–1252
  • Alfredo Saad-Filho and Ben Fine (2016) "Thirteen Things You Need to Know About Neoliberalism", Critical Sociology, 1-22.
  • Ang, Y.Y. (2015) Which Comes First in Development-State Capacity or Economic Growth? The Political Economist, Spring.
  • Bernstein, H (2010).  Class Dynamics of Agrarian Change Halifax: Fernwood. Chapter 6.
  • Byres, Terence J., (2003). ‘Agriculture and Development: the Dominant Orthodoxy and an Alternative View’, in H-J. Chang (ed) Rethinking Development Economics London: Anthem Press. Chapter 11. [Available from SOAS Library.]
  • Clark, D. (2005). The Capability Approach: Its Development, Critiques and Recent Advances. GPRG-WPS-032.  (weblink:
  • J. Sending and I. B. Neumann, "From Governance to Governmentality: Analysing NGOs, States and Power.” International Studies Quarterly (50:3), 2006, 651-672
  • Kay C., (2002), ‘Why East Asia overtook Latin America:  agrarian reform, industrialisation and development’ Third World Quarterly 23 (6): pp. 1073-1102.
  • Khan, M. (2007) Governance, Economic Growth and Development since the 1960s, available at
  • Kostick, Kristin M., Stephen L. Schensul, Rajendra Singh, Pertti Pelto, and Niranjan Saggurti (2011) A methodology for building culture and gender norms into intervention: An example from Mumbai, India, Social Science and Medicine, 72: 1630 - 1638.
  • Mosse D. (2018) ‘Caste and development: Contemporary perspectives on a structure of discrimination and advantage’. World Development 110(422-436).
  • Pulerwitz, Julie, Lindsay Hughes, Manisha Mehta, Aklilu Kidanu, Fabio Verani, and Samuel Tewolde (2015) Changing Gender Norms and Reducing Intimate Partner Violence: Results From a Quasi-Experimental Intervention Study With Young Men in Ethiopia, American Journal of Public Health, 105(1): 132-137.
  • Rodrik, D. 2008. 'Normalizing Industrial Policy', Commision on Growth and Development Paper No. 3, World Bank
  • S. Devereux, J A. McGregor. 2014. ‘Transforming Social Protection: Human Wellbeing and Social Justice’, The European Journal of Development Research 26 (3) 296–310
  • S. Hickey, 2013, ‘Beyond the Poverty Agenda? Insights from the New Politics of Development in Uganda’, World Development 43: 194-206.  
  • Sinha, S. 2008, 'Lineages of the Developmentalist State: Transnationality and Village India, 1900-1965', Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 50, No. 1, pp. 57-90.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules