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Unit information: Theories of Development in 2015/16

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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. Wyatt
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 following methods will be used:

  • Critical evaluation of relevant literature
  • Discussion and group work
  • Listening and speaking in discussion
  • Literature searches and primary source work, including internet
  • Seminar presentations (individual or collaborative)
  • Essay writing

Assessment Details

Formative assessment: an oral presentation supported by a handout Summative assessment: a 3,500 to 4,000 word essay

A full statement of the relationship between the programme outcomes and types/methods of assessment is contained in accompanying Programme Specifications and section B7 of the Major Change to Current Programme forms for the programmes of which this unit is a part. The assessment for each unit is designed to fit within and contribute to that approach in terms of intellectual development across each of the two teaching blocks, and in relation to knowledge and understanding, intellectual skills and attributes, and transferable skills.

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