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Unit information: Theories of Development in 2020/21

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Unit name Theories of Development
Unit code POLIM3018
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Rob Yates
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit will take us on an intellectual journey into a range of theories that have sought to explain the process of development (or lack of it) in less-developed or postcolonial countries, and locate those theories historically and geographically. This journey begins with the theories of modernisation in the wake of the second world war and ends with the crisis of neo-liberalism and the emerging possibility of social movements and transnational alliances (best encapsulated in the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre in 2002) providing an alternative globalisation that is constructed from below. This unit is only available to students registered for MSc/Diploma degrees in the Department of Politics. Please note that the Department does not permit the auditing of any of its units.

This unit aims:

  • To provide an overview of major debates in development theory
  • To locate theory within time and space in order to understand the historical, geographical, political, economic and cultural factors that gave rise to theory
  • To equip students with the necessary conceptual tools to apply theory to contemporary development problems and possibilities

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will be able to:

  • Critically evaluate a range of key theoretical debates in the field of development studies
  • Relate theories to the concrete events and realities that produced them
  • Apply key conceptual tools to contemporary development problems

Teaching details

The unit will be taught through blended learning methods, including a mix of synchronous and asynchronous teaching activities

Assessment Details

25% 2000 word report 75% 3000 word essay

Reading and References

  • Leys, C. The Rise and Fall of Development Theory, James Currey, 1996
  • Martinussen, J. Society, State and Market: a guide to competing theories of development, ZED, 1997
  • Preston, P. (ed.), Development Theory: an introduction, Blackwell, 1996
  • Rist, G. The History of Development: From Western Origins to Global Faith, ZED, 2000
  • Roberts, T and Hite, A (eds), From Modernization to Globalization: Perspectives on Development and Social Change, Blackwell, 2000
  • Tornquist, O. Politics and Development: a critical introduction, Sage, 1999