Fall 2023 - IS 809 G100

Selected Topics - Economic and Social Development of Selected Regions (4)

Contemporary Latin America

Class Number: 4632

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 6 – Dec 5, 2023: Wed, 9:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.



Examines the specific development experience of a selected region, taking account of the historical context, of state capacity, development strategies and of the political economy of development - as well as of the particular problems of development across different sectors of the economy, and the outcomes in regard to poverty and levels of well-being.


This course is a weekly seminar for graduate and undergraduate students on the political economy of social and economic development in contemporary Latin America. It aims to build a basic understanding of continuity and change in relationships between the economies, societies, and politics of Latin American countries during the contemporary era. As a region characterized by trenchant colonial legacies, transitions from authoritarianism to democracy, and dynamic social movements, Latin America exhibits how history and politics can affect social and economic development, and vice-versa. Drawing on multidisciplinary readings from the social sciences and history, the course explores these dynamics throughout the region, while offering more detailed consideration of Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Mexico, among other major countries. In Part I, we begin by surveying the region’s history of Spanish and Portuguese colonialism, independence, and warfare, highlighting the legacies of these eras for contemporary economic development. We also consider major animating periods of 20th century Latin American political economy, including critical political junctures of the 1920s and 1930s, U.S. imperialism, authoritarianism from the 1960s through the 1980s, transitions to democracy and economic liberalization during the 1980s, and the more recent trend of democratic backsliding. In Part II, we assess continuity and change in 21st century social development and explore the roots of recent change in social development. We focus on changes in social policy during the “left turn” of the early 2000s, the early and mid-2010s rise of right-wing governments, and the incipient return of left and center-left governments to national power thus far in the 2020s. 


By the end of the course, students:
• gain substantive knowledge about major historical periods in Latin America and their relevance for contemporary political economy and society across the region;
• gain familiarity with social scientific arguments about contemporary Latin America;
• improve skills in synthesizing social scientific such arguments through writing;
• improve skills in assessing social scientific arguments through analytic writing;


  • Critical Discussion Papers 24%
  • Responses to Discussion Papers 6%
  • In Class Exam 30%
  • Writing Assignment 30%
  • Class Participation 10%



We will read sizable portions or all of the texts below:
Garay, Candelaria. 2016. Social Policy Expansion in Latin America. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Mahoney, James. 2010. Colonialism and Postcolonial Development: Spanish America in Comparative Perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press.
McGuire, James. 2010. Wealth, Health, and Democracy in East Asia and Latin America. New York: Cambridge University Press. Munck, Gerardo L. and Juan Pablo Luna. 2022. Latin American Politics and Society: A Comparative and Historical Analysis. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

In addition, we will read selected articles, book chapters, and other textual sources that will be available in digital form online through our Canvas website and/or through the SFU library website.


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.

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/current/important_dates/guidelines.html. The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

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


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the semester are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.