Fall 2019 - IS 410 D100

Politics, Institutions and Development (4)

Class Number: 7926

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Th 8:30 AM – 12:20 PM
    HCC 1505, Vancouver

  • Prerequisites:

    90 units.



The quality of institutions' exercises a crucial influence on the prospects for development. Aims are to interrogate this claim through analysis of different paths of economic growth and change across the developing world. Examination of the ways in which politics influences economic growth and distribution; the relationships between political systems and patterns of development; and the politics of institutions and state formation.


The quality of national (and international) institutions exercises a crucial influence on the prospects for development. The course interrogates this claim through analysis of different paths of economic growth and change across the developing world. We also will read dramatically different ways of perceiving or “telling” those paths. Along the way we will review several basic neoclassical economic models—as well as discussing how, when, and why to be skeptical about them. Wherever possible, we will tie these larger themes to concrete problems of real world policymaking as experienced within contemporary emerging economies, including the challenges of modernizing infrastructure, tackling corruption, addressing structural inequality, and regulating global energy trading. An on-going aim of the course will be integration of theory, history, and contemporary international events/news.

Topics for this term include:
* Defining “development,” “poverty,” and “inequality”
* Theories of economic growth (neoclassical and alternative)
* Theories of structural change: Jumping to a virtuous equilibrium?
* Game theory and economic regulation
* Property rights and incentives
* Industrial policy
* The basic economics of international trade and exchange rates
* Liberal internationalism and the global political economy
* Challenges to the liberal order from multipolarity and economic nationalism
* Democracy, authoritarianism, and economic growth
* Mixed capitalism and the economic role of the state


Please expect to read 50-100 pages of complex, challenging text weekly. Please ALWAYS bring a copy of the readings to class, and come prepared to discuss them.              

NOTE: 1) There are no formal prerequisites for this class. While the Roland text presents some material algebraically and graphically, this class will focus on the qualitative intuitions and analytical logic underlying the formal models. 2) This class is cross-listed as an advanced undergraduate seminar and a Masters’ level class. The lectures and assignments will be similar, but marking standards are more rigorous for graduate students.


  • Midterm (in-class, 1.5 hours) 25%
  • 1st Essay (1500-2000 word essay on your choice of five or six questions) 25%
  • 2nd Essay (2000-2500 word essay on your choice of five or six questions) 25%
  • Class Participation, Op Ed, Final Presentation 25%


Students will be required to submit their written assignments to Turnitin.com in order to receive credit for the assignments and for the course.

The School for International Studies strictly enforces the University's policies regarding plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty. Information about these policies can be found at: http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/teaching.html.



Roland, Gérard. 2014. Development Economics. New York: Taylor and Francis.

Pistor, Katharina. 2019. The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Additional readings to be made available electronically on Canvas.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html