Fall 2022 - IS 410 D100

Politics, Institutions and Development (4)

Class Number: 8021

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 9:30 AM – 12:20 PM
    HCC 1525, 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 central focus of this required graduate 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, the challenges for indigenous peoples, populism, social movements and the neoliberal food regime. Next, we will read Thomas Piketty’s 2022 book, A Brief History of Equality. It is based on his Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2014), the most influential study about inequality in capitalism. Piketty’s 2014 book became a historical academic bestseller and provoked numerous scholarly and policy debates which continue into the 2020s. 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 of the dominated to push for progressive social change.


The course will provide students the opportunity to read extensively about development and inequality. Students will finish the course with an intermediate-to-advanced level of knowledge of the main theoretical and critical perspectives from several disciplines in the social sciences about issues confronting developing countries. They will acquire a broad range of conceptual and analytical tools for examining the politics, institutions and development across a diverse range of countries, primarily but not only of the Global South.


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


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.

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.



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

Financialization, land grabbing and neoliberal globalism (articles). (Weeks 4-7)

Thomas Piketty. 2022. A Brief History of Equality. Translated by Steven Randall. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN: 9780674273559 (Weeks 8-9)

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)


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website 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