Introduction to the Politics of Global Poverty and Inequality

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This course is no longer being offered.

Course Description

In 21 century poverty and inequality have proven to be resilient in both the global south and the industrialized countries of the north. Climate change, natural resource depletion and failure of both governments and markets to address issues of poverty and inequality in many states have challenged established development paradigms. This class introduces students to the seminal and contemporary debates on poverty, inequality and development. Although we will primarily focus on the challenges facing states in the global south, we will also draw on case studies of countries in the global north to better understand diverse pathways of development and the relationship between inequality in the global north and south.

This course is designed to expose students to some of the foundational and contemporary literature political economy of development drawing on literature from political science, sociology and history. The course will be designed to help first- and second-year undergraduate students identify and evaluate diverse perspectives and pathways to development to prepare them for advanced courses in political economy, we will begin by reading and discussing some foundational texts such as Marx, Adam Smith, as well as contemporary scholars such as Amartya Sen, Dani Rodrick, Peter Evans and Dambisa Moyo. The aim will be to evaluate how countries define and achieve development goals. We will also read critiques of major development paradigms to understand their limitations. We will particularly draw attention to feminist, environmental and anti-globalization activists’ critiques of modernization theory and neoliberalism.

The class will have 3 broad themes: 1) state of the field: what are the foundational definitions of development? 2) Key actors, institutions and challenges: what are the major critiques of development paradigms 3) Country specific experiences of development and their challenges.

All weekly readings and themes will be discussed at length in class to bring out major themes and insights. I will give a brief overview and presentation of a major theme in each class. These presentations may include showing students short videos related to topics covered. After my brief presentation I will open each class up for a guided discussion. Students will be expected to engage in these discussions as part of their overall learning experience and grade. In addition to class discussion, all students enrolled in the class will be expected to give a presentation on a country’s specific country’s development paying attention to political institutions, and economic and human development and bringing their presentations into conversation with readings in class. Students will write a final paper for the course incorporating readings of their choice and the country case study in their presentation.

This class will provide a overview of core concepts and debates for students wishing to pursue advanced classes in: comparative politics, sociology and development studies.

Key Texts:
Amartya Sen_ Development as Freedom (1999)
Jeffrey D. Sachs, The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time (2005)
Dambisa Mayo - Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa (2009)
Yuen Yuen Ang . How China Escaped the Poverty Trap (Cornell Studies in Political Economy (2016)

This class aims to equip students become conversant in the major contemporary debates about global poverty and inequality. The course aims include:
 Critical assessment of research -students will learn to identify and group different strands of research and learn to critically evaluate them.
 Enhance presentation skills (slides and oral) - each student will be required to make one presentation in class using power point slides.
 Class discussion - 10 % of the final grade will be reserved for student participation on weekly readings and an in-class presentation.

Prerequisites: This class is designed for first- and second-year undergraduate students interested in comparative politics, political sociology and development issues. No prerequisites are required for the class.


Course Information

  • Course Code: CEPS0978
  • Length: 3 weeks

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences, offering over 200 non-credit courses, one- to four-weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2019.

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