The Course

Place: Bentley Hall 220
Time: 12:-1:20 PM, Tuesdays and Thursdays
Instructor: Dr. Brandon Kendhammer

POLS 4400/5400: The Politics of Developing Areas 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.

Formal Learning Objectives

As in all 4000/5000-level political science courses at Ohio University, I am also required to present to you the following learning objectives:

By the end of this course, students will be able to…

  • Summarize and critique academic and/or professional literature on selected research topics
  • Apply appropriate theories, methodologies, and/or evidence to their research topic
  • Develop papers, reports, or presentations that describe their findings and conclusions on their research topics for professional or academic audiences.

We will be meeting these goals with your various written assignments throughout the semester.