header image

PS345 - Politics of Developing Nations

Professor Henderson Office: Gilkey Hall 312
Telephone: 737-6236
Office Hours: T 9 10 AM; W 2:30 4:30 PM; Th 1 2 PM; by appointment

Course description

Why have some countries been able to develop stable economic, social and political institutions, while the majority of the worlds citizens continue to live in conditions of poverty, often without adequate opportunities for social mobility or political expression? This class will introduce you to the political economy of development in the countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. We have three goals in this class. First, on a very basic level, this class should familiarize you with the broad political and economic characteristics of the developing world, which encompasses more than 140 nations. Second, it will introduce you to the various ways in which scholars and development practitioners have diagnosed the reasons behind endemic poverty and political instability, as well as the various strategies that a wide array of development agencies have implemented in their efforts to ameliorate these conditions. Finally, this course explores why some developing countries have achieved some measure of economic growth and political stability. By the end of this course, you should be familiar with the major debates within the fields of political and economic development.

We start the class with an overview of various theoretical approaches to the field of development. Why is it that rich countries tend to be concentrated in the Northern hemisphere while poorer countries are collected in the South? We follow this discussion with a case study of one developing country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in order to gain greater understanding on how issues such as colonialism, internal corruption, and ethnic and civic strife can complicate a countrys political and economic trajectory. We then turn towards strategies of development. First, we explore the role of various organizations, such as the IMF and the World Bank, in fostering economic development in less developed countries. To what degree do organizations such as the IMF and the World Bank help and/or hinder development? We then look at alternative approaches to fostering development, such as micro finance and gender targeted programming.

It is easy to turn away in despair when considering the challenges that many of these countries face, and the failures in political leadership that many of these countries have endured. However, we cannot afford to turn away from the developing world, nor can we ignore countries ongoing struggles for economic, social and political development. For moral, strategic, and economic reasons, we have a vested interest in ensuring greater levels of economic and political development for all citizens of the world.

Required readings

The following books are required reading for this class and can be purchased at the OSU bookstore:

  • William Easterly, The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2001).
  • Michela Wrong, In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutus Congo (New York: Harper Collins, 2001).
  • Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom (New York: Anchor Books, 2000).
  • Selected articles, book chapters, and readings are on reserve at the Valley Library.

Assignments and evaluation

A shared sense of enthusiasm for learning and respect for other persons is essential to the successful functioning of the academic community. As a teacher, I work hard to design classes that will provide you with a well-rounded, liberal arts education. My responsibilities to you are: to come to class prepared; to treat your ideas with respect; to serve as a professional role model and provide guidance and professional advice.

In return, this is how I will evaluate you:

Collegialityi 10%

It is important that we work together as a group. Each one of you is a critical and valued participant in every class session. You are expected to attend all the class sessions and to participate in them. It is important that you find ways to contribute to the class discussion. For one, when you do not talk, you are making other students carry the burden of making class discussion a rich and interesting experience. That is unfair. In addition, the whole class suffers from your silence. The fewer the participants, the less chance that a variety of ideas will be introduced, and as a result, ideas are left unsaid, unexplored, and most importantly, unshared.

Informal writings assignments 15%

Reading reactions

Completing the reading, and then organizing your thoughts for class can sometimes be a difficult process. Yet, taking the time to assemble your thoughts before class can make all the difference in turning a lackluster class session into an exciting one. To facilitate this process, you are responsible for writing up your reactions to the reading. Your reading reaction should be two paragraphs in length (about one page). The first paragraph should summarize the main points of the reading. The second paragraph should discuss your reaction to the reading. For example, what did you learn that was compelling, interesting, or counterintuitive? Or, how would your field of study add to/diverge from the approach taken in the reading? Alternatively, you can raise some issues that you want to discuss further in class. This can be presented as a series of points that emerged in the reading that you would like to explore further.

You are responsible for turning in 10 reading reactions throughout the term. You must turn in at least one per week. Please bring them with you to class.

Take home exams/essays 75%

Learning to write and improving your writing skills are two essential aspects of your academic college experience. You will have three essay assignments.

Paper (5-6 pages) 25%
Paper (5-6 pages) 25%
Final paper (6-8 pages) 25%

Grading criteria

Grading standards for collegiality

  • A Students who earn an A in collegiality are consistently excellent colleagues. They are always present and prepared for class, and they bring interesting and relevant questions and comments to the discussion of the subject material. However, they are also excellent colleagues because they are good listeners and show a genuine interest in their fellow students thoughts.
  • B A B student may have missed one or two classes through the term or may have done poorly on one or two of the informal writing assignments, but s/he generally has been an active and enthusiastic participant in the course. Other B students may have been in class and prepared for class every day, but will have occasionally articulated ideas without reference to the direction of the conversation; that is, they actively participated in discussions without listening to their colleagues previous statements.
  • C A C student is very much an average student. C students will miss up to five classes through the term or will come to class several times during the term without having fully read and understood the assignment material. Other C students will be prepared for class and will come to most class meetings; yet, they hold back, waiting for others to ask the tough questions or take the chance at making the mistake. Still other C students will occasionally dominate a class discussion and use rhetorical tactics that limit other students participation.
  • Lower than a C Students who earn a D or even an F for collegiality will have missed more than 5 classes or will have come to class frequently without being fully prepared for the class meeting. In the class discussions and activities, lower than average colleagues will avoid participating completely.

Grading standards for informal writing assignments

You will receive a check plus (95), a check (85), or a check minus (75).

You will be evaluated along the following criteria:

  • Does the summary clearly reflect the main points of the reading?
  • Did you discuss the reading according to one of the listed criteria?
  • Is the assignment written clearly and without grammatical errors?

Grading standards for written assignments and exams

  1. The student has written an ideal essay; ideal because it directly answered the question, supported its argument with accurate evidence drawn from the lectures and reading materials, and presented the argument in a well organized, stylistically and grammatically correct format. An A essay shines with original thought and strong, relevant evidence presented in a clear, understandable format. It is obvious that the student has absorbed and thought through the material in a very sophisticated manner.
  2. The student has read and understood the material and has offered a direct answer to the question with accurate evidence drawn from the lectures and the reading materials. It is not an A essay because it leaves a few questions hanging unanswered or overlooks a critical element of the problem. A B essay may contain some spelling, grammatical, or stylistic errors, but generally is quite sound.
  3. The student appears to have read most of the materials and has attempted to address the question, but has not written an answer that clearly, fully, or accurately answers the question. Any one of several elements may have gotten in the way of a good answer, including a lack of relevant evidence, a poorly organized essay, occasional oversimplifications, spelling, grammatical, or stylistic mistakes, or factual errors.
  4. The student has not directly answered the question and appears to have a poor grasp of the lectures and reading materials. Often, an essay of this quality will contain a number of oversimplifications of the course material, grammatical and stylistic mistakes, and factual errors.
  5. The student strays from the question and provides little accurate and relevant historical evidence. Generally, an F paper will have poor organization, numerous spelling, grammatical, and stylistic mistakes, and fail to demonstrate an understanding of the course material.

All writing assignments must be

  • Typed
  • Double spaced
  • 12 inch font
  • Paginated
  • With left and right margins set at 1.25 and top and bottom margins set at 1 (this should be your default margin setting)
  • Proofread and spell checked

Class policy

I have office hours because I am here to help you learn and improve your academic skills, to mentor you through your undergraduate career, and to provide guidance in laying out potential career options after your college career ends. Please stop by my office and introduce yourselves; I want to get to know you.

In general, I can be helpful if I know of a problem beforehand or, given an emergency, as soon as possible; if you let me know of a problem well after the fact, there is little I can do.

  • Late papers and exams (even an hour late) are penalized a grade a day (A/A-/B+, and so forth). This includes weekends. I do not accept papers that are more than three days late; you will receive a zero. If you are sick, you need a notice from a doctor explaining your illness (the fact that you were at the student health center is not sufficient) or you need to contact me before the assignment is due if there is a problem.
  • I RARELY give extensions, and only when accompanied by appropriate documentation.
  • I RARELY give incompletes, and only when accompanied by appropriate documentation.
  • Plagiarism, or representing and using another persons ideas, writings, and work as ones own, will not be tolerated. If you engage in such behavior, I will fail you in this class and submit the relevant paperwork on your case to the appropriate university committee.
  • Please notify me within the first week of class if you have any alternative needs as a result of a learning disability. This must be accomplished by medical documentation.


Note: reading is to be completed by the day that it is listed.

  • Part I Introduction: What is Development? What is Underdevelopment?
    • September 28 Course Introduction
      • No reading due today.
    • September 30 The Status of the Developing World
      • Nigeria Illbeing and Insecurity; Bangladesh Waves of Disaster; Bosnia and Herzegovina War-Torn Lives; Brazil Gains and Losses in the Favelas. Deepa Narayan and Patti Petesch, eds. Voices of the Poor: From Many Lands (New York: Oxford University Press and the World Bank, 2002).
    • October 5 Theories of Development
      • Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, Prologue, Epilogue, and Afterword. On reserve.
      • Ricardo Hausmann, Prisoners of Geography, Foreign Policy (Jan/Febr. 2001). On reserve or available on line through Academic Search Premier.
  • Part II: A Case Study of a Developing Country
    • October 7
      • Michela Wrong, In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutus Congo, Introduction, Chapters 1 3.
  • October 12
    • Wrong, Chapters 4-7.
  • October 14
    • Wrong, Chapters 8-11.
  • October 19
    • Wrong, Chapters 12 14, Epilogue.
  • October 21
    • TBA
  • First paper due, Friday October 23, 4 PM
  • Part III: Development Strategies
    • October 26 Neoliberal strategies: The IMF and the World Bank
      • William Easterly, The Elusive Quest for Growth, Prologue, Chapters 1-3.
    • October 28
      • William Easterly, The Elusive Quest for Growth, Chapters 4 - 7.
    • November 2
      • William Easterly, The Elusive Quest for Growth, Chapters 8 - 11.
    • November 4
      • William Easterly, The Elusive Quest for Growth, Chapters 12 - 14.
    • November 9
      • TBA
    • Second paper due at the beginning of class.
  • Part III: Alternative Models of Development
    • November 11
      • The United Nations Development Program, Human Development Report 2003. Overview and Chapter 1.
    • November 16
      • Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom, Introduction and Chapters 1, 2, and 3. For Chapter 3, read only the first section (pp. 54-56).
    • November 18
      • Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom, Chapters 4 & 6 (skip Chapter 5).
    • November23
      • Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom, Chapters 7, 8, 9.
    • November 25
    • November 30
      • Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom, Chapters 10, 11, 12.
    • December 2
      • TBA
    • Final paper due December 6, 4 PM