Fall 2020 - IS 410 D100

Politics, Institutions and Development (4)

Class Number: 4977

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 2:30 PM – 5:20 PM

  • 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 central focus of this required graduate and elective advanced-undergraduate seminar will be social-science debates about politics, institutions and development. An important question guiding this seminar will be: what are the conditions under which subordinate groups, communities and classes can push socioeconomic and political development toward a societal democracy in the age of neoliberal globalization to reduce or eliminate inequalities? First, we will read texts by or about some of the most classical theorists of economic development like Albert O. Hirschman, Raúl Prebisch and Celso Furtado. One common feature of their work is that they paid attention to cultural and political determinants of economic development. We will then read on changes brought about by neoliberal globalism since the 1980s, including financialization, land grabbing and the challenges for indigenous populations. Next, we will read selections from Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Picketty (2014), the most influential study about inequality in capitalism. Piketty’s book became a historical academic bestseller and provoked numerous scholarly and policy debates which continue into 2020. Finally, we will try to decipher what are the conditions for transformation both from below (civil society organizations) and from above (institutions of the state or political society). The institutions of the state, therefore, are not seen as monolithic structures that always function to reproduce dominant power; they are also penetrated by social contradictions and can be used by organized forces to push for progressive social change. Students will be expected to do heavy weekly readings and be prepared for seminar discussion. Written assignments include five Discussion Papers (500-750 words) about the required readings in as many weeks throughout the term, alternating with five Responses in different weeks. Take-home mid-term and final essays will be written in response to questions provided by the instructor, which will allow a range of topic choices.


  • Five Discussion Papers 25%
  • Response Papers 10%
  • Mid-Term Essay 25%
  • Final Essay 25%
  • Participation 15%


Unless otherwise specified on the course outline, all graded assignments in this course must be completed for a final grade other than N to be assigned.

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.


This course will be delivered via online platforms, such as Zoom, Canvas, Blackboard, etc.

Students are required to have a computer, with a microphone, webcam, and speakers. They also must have good access to the Internet.

Microsoft Office is required, and a free version of Office 365 is available to SFU students here: https://www.sfu.ca/itservices/technical/software/office365.html.

Students will be required to upload assignments to Canvas and through Turnitin.com.



Required Texts: (All articles will be available on Canvas)

 Classical work on development (articles). (Weeks 1-3)

Financialization, land grabbing and neoliberal globalism (articles). (Weeks 4-6)

Thomas Piketty. 2014. Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN: 9780674430006 (Weeks 7-9)

Gianpaolo Baiochi and Ernesto Ganuza. 2017. Popular Democracy: The Paradox of Participation. Stanford: Stanford University Press. ISBN: 9781503600768. (Weeks 10-11)

Erik Olin Wright. 2019. How to Be an Anticapitalist in the Twenty-First Century. London and New York: Verso. ISBN: 9781788736053. (Weeks 12-13)

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


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).