Political economy of finance, debt and development

Key information

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Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Development Studies

Module overview

Finance is one of the most important factors impacting development, and the power of financial capital has grown tremendously since the 1980s and with the transition to neoliberal strategies of development.

Individuals, workers, families, businesses, public services, and governments have become more dependent, in different ways, on access to finance that is far from guaranteed. At the same time, this turn to financial capitalism or ‘financialization’ has entailed economic instability and recurrent crises.

This course explores a series of questions arising from the ever more important links that exist between contemporary finance and development. The course material focuses largely on the experiences of middle-income countries and the historical, social, economic, and political determinants of change by paying attention to issues of power and conflict in finance as well as to actually-existing alternatives to private finance.

To achieve this, each week’s seminar tends to be organized around a question, for example, ‘What are some key historical features of finance, debt, and development? The 2-hour weekly seminars are then collectively geared towards understanding and answering that question, based on the course readings, brief lectures, and in-class discussions, which are something complemented by videos, a field trip, and other activities. As such, students must be prepared to come having already read the assigned readings before each seminar and to actively participate in each and every class.

It is important to emphasize that this course does NOT follow an ordinary course structure (standard lecture followed by a separate tutorial). Instead, it is an interactive course that seeks to familiarise students with the agents and structures of finance by employing a range of different learning strategies, which includes regular small group discussions, interactive debates, and a fieldtrip.

Objectives and learning outcomes

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

  • ability to identify the role finance plays in development
  • ability to identify the key actors in development finance
  • ability to analyse and evaluate how development finance actors work, and how they contribute to development and development crisis
  • understanding of the causes and consequences of financial crises
  • understanding of the causes of the 2008-09 financial crisis, and its implications for development in poorer countries
  • understanding of the key theories in relation to development finance, and an ability to evaluate those theories and the broader literature
  • ability to use empirically-formed analysis to identity gaps and tensions between theory and practice


Teaching will take the form of a 2-hour seminar per week.

Method of assessment

100% Coursework. Each student will be required to submit an Essay worth 60% of the overall grade and another Short Essay worth 25% of the overall grade.

Students will also need to submit a Critical commentary worth 6% of the overall grade and the remaining 9% will be assessed by seminar participation. Resubmission of coursework regulations apply.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules