Course Guidelines

POLS 4400/5400: Politics of Developing Areas

Hydroelectric Kenya

Room: Bentley Hall 210
Time: 12 PM-1:20 PM, Tuesdays and Thursdays

Dr. Brandon Kendhammer
Office: 215 Bentley Annex
Office Hours: Mondays and Wednesdays, 9 AM-11 AM, and by appt.


Course Description

POLS 4400/5400 is organized around answering a  deceptively straightforward question: Why are some countries rich and well-governed, while others are poor and poorly-governed?  Beginning with the “Great Divergence” of the 18th and 19th centuries and ending with contemporary debates over foreign aid, we will focus on the role of government policy in facilitating economic and human development in the Global South.  Specifically, we ask why countries have chosen radically different political and economic policies in pursuit of development, and we explore the consequences (intended and unintended) of these choices for the immediate and long-term future.

The aim of this course is to get you thinking about the big historical processes that have shaped the distribution of wealth and political power across the globe, and about the consequences of these processes for ordinary citizens.  Because there is (as you’ll discover) precious little consensus about the answer to the above question, we don’t use a single unifying textbook, or adopt a single disciplinary perspective.  We also don’t focus on a single geographic region (although, in the interests of full disclosure, your instructor is a specialist in African politics by trade, and the course does tend to focus more on Sub-Saharan Africa than on other regions), or time period.  Our ultimate goal is to conceptualize the political processes that shape the economic and political lives of citizens in the Global South, and to begin to think about what kinds of internal and external interventions have or might work to improve governance and economic performance.

So that you understand going in, this course is not a practical seminar on “doing” development.  Your instructor is not a development practitioner, and this course will not focus (except in an occasional, illustrative fashion) on how to design or implement development projects for the NGO or governmental sectors.  Rather, we will spend most of the quarter exploring the various ways in which states and international organizations are empowered to either promote or impede economic development.  We will pay particular attention to the ways in which academic theories of development have influenced (sometimes for the good, but often for the bad) the agendas of domestic and international actors.  While much of the work we will be reading is written by economists, the perspective we will be adopting throughout is that of the political scientist: that state institutions and policy choices matter as much or more than geographic or cultural factors in creating the conditions necessary for economic growth.

Course Format

Because of its size, and because of the fact that you all have very different backgrounds political science and economics, this course will feature a combination of lecture and discussion.  Typically, I will begin class with a short lecture (~30 minutes) that contextualizes the day’s material and incorporates terms and concepts that I believe are important but are not found in the reading materials.  From there, we will begin a discussion based on your questions and comments.  We will often conclude with another short lecture summarizing the significance of that day’s material in terms of the broader trajectory of the course. Occasionally, we will make use of group work or other in-class exercises, as well as films and video clips.

During our discussions, I expect that we will be able to develop a community of scholarship in which we share, discuss, and critique ideas.  The state of social scientific knowledge on this topic is quite limited, as you will quickly discover.  I do not have “Truth” (with a capital “T”) to disseminate on the topics we’ll be exploring together, and much of the intellectual work to be done in this class involves each of you parsing the various arguments and bits of evidence we’ll encounter into a (relatively) coherent narrative of what development means and how and why it happens.  What I or any of the authors we will be reading have to say about development is by no means definitive.

All of this means that I have very high expectations for your participation during our time together.  This kind of class can only work if you all come prepared by completing the reading assignments in a timely manner—one that allows you time to think about them, to come up with questions, arguments, and points of possible disagreement.  Along those lines, I will provide you with a number of opportunities designed to reward you for your preparation.  This kind of class also depends on your active participation in discussion, as an inquisitive and critical (but also civil) member of our community.  If you do not believe that you can commit to completing the readings on time, to preparing for class discussions based on those readings, and to speaking up when necessary, then this class may not be appropriate for you.  I believe that this goes without saying, but students are expected to be civil as we discuss what can sometimes be heated political issues.  If you cannot behave accordingly, I will insist that you leave.


Class Policies

Because you are all adults, and because it should already be abundantly clear to you that an active and ongoing physical presence in all of your courses is a necessary part of the learning process, I do not “grade” attendance. It is your professor’s belief that attendance grades reward students for what should simply be a baseline expectation, and he does not wish to send the message that there is credit to be had merely for showing up. Similarly, I do not “grade” participation. Again, it is a baseline expectation that you come prepared (having completed and taken notes on all readings) and ready to be fully mentally engaged to each of your meetings. Do note, however, that I do take participation and attendance into consideration when deciding whether or not to offer paper/essay extensions, to make special trips into the office for meetings at odd hours, or to respond to emails late nights and weekends. Put simply, I’m far more likely to cut you some slack if you show up and put in maximum effort, and much less likely to do so if you do not. In my experience, nearly all of you will need some slack at some point in the next term, and I encourage you to keep this in mind.

Second, and per the official OU language for faculty on Academic misconduct:

Academic integrity and honesty are basic values of Ohio University. Students are expected to follow standards of academic integrity and honesty. Academic misconduct is a violation of the Ohio University Student Code of Conduct subject to a maximum sanction of disciplinary suspension or expulsion as well as a grade penalty in the course.

I take plagiarism and academic honesty quite seriously. Papers found to contain plagiarism will at a minimum receive a failing grade, and I reserve the right to extend additional consequences (including failure of the course or referral to the University’s Academic Conduct mechanisms) as I see fit. Please see the OU Student Code of Conduct for more information.

Students who require accessibility accommodations are welcome to meet with me privately, so that you may provide me with your Letter of Notification (specifying the accommodations for which you are eligible), and so we may discuss how we will implement them. If you are not yet registered, please contact the Office of Student Accessibility Services at 740-593-2620 or visit the office in 348 Baker University Center. Many accommodations require advance scheduling on my part, and cannot be organized with only a few days’ notice.  It is your responsibility to contact me early in the semester so that I may make the necessary arrangements.