Global Poverty and Development

Module code: SY3081
Module co-ordinator: Dr David Bartram

The backdrop of this module is the persistent and shocking poverty of many of the world's countries, as well as the growing inequality between rich and poor countries. Scholars and others have long been interested in how (or whether) it might be possible for such countries to 'develop' – where that term usually means 'become less poor.' We will begin with a prior question, however: What does 'development' mean? What should it mean? There is growing scepticism about the taken-for-granted answers to these questions. Above all, there is growing recognition of the need for a conception broader than the traditional concern with economic growth.

The traditional agenda of development scholars would be fascinating enough even without the more radical questions. There is much disagreement over matters such as whether or not poor countries benefit from increasing contact with wealthy countries (through, for example, trade, investment, and development assistance of various kinds) – a question that connects with current discussions of globalisation. There are also fervent debates over the role of third world governments in the development process, including over the basic question of whether democratic or authoritarian governments are more conducive to economic growth.

We will also consider some pressing questions that are currently on the agenda of activists and social movements:

  • Do international institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund play a constructive role in poor countries?
  • What are the development implications of emerging regional free trade regimes and other aspects of globalisation?
  • How might those concerned with development balance apparent contradictions of economic growth and environmental protection?

Topics covered

  • Conceptualising development
  • Gender and development
  • Modernisation theory
  • Dependency theory
  • Development and the state
  • Globalisation
  • Debt and 'structural adjustment'
  • 'Sustainable' development
  • Hunger
  • Foreign aid


  • 20 hours of lectures
  • 10 hours of seminars
  • 170 hours of guided independent study


  • Essay, 2,500 words (50%)
  • Exam, 2 hours (50%)