POL3503: International Political Economy (HŅst 2017)




The relationship between international economics and international politics is interactive. Markets do not exist in a vacuum, nor are political processes and outcomes free of the influence of economic forces. This course examines how markets, states, and other social institutions interact to shape the global system of international economic relations, which in turn is a vital part of international relations in general. It examines major issues concerning development and underdevelopment in terms of North-South interaction. Global poverty and inequality are at the heart of global stability and concerns regarding justice. The course examines the major theoretical bases for understanding IPE with a particular emphasis on the ongoing controversies surrounding the nature of North-South interaction and economic and political underdevelopment. What issues explain how and why the poor countries remain poor? What empirical issues remain unexplored, or empirically untested? What are the major global problems that require global-level policy to correct? The course will pay particular attention to how increasing liberalization of economics and politics influences societal outcomes in the developing world. The students are encouraged in their research projects to explore testable hypotheses related to questions surrounding North-South interaction and political, economic and social outcomes.


Objective of course:

To gain insight into the major theoretical bases of international political economy and obtain critical insight.

To understand the theoretical foundations and empirical realities surrounding some major debates on political and economic development (become familiar with reading quantitative articles in Political Science, Sociology and Economics)

To understand what perspectives from IPE bear on the dilemmas of developing countries (design testable propositions and use hard data to address research questions)




Grades are decided almost entirely on the research project, which is a 20-25 page paper (roughly 8000-8500 words), typed (12 point font), double-spaced, and conforming to an accepted academic style. The question for the project must be justified on the basis of some theoretical or empirical problem encountered in the readings and discussions, or one discussed with the instructor. A one-page ‘problemstilling’ must be handed in to the instructor within 3 weeks of the first meeting. Additionally, all students are expected to write a 2-page book review assessing the arguments presented in William Easterly, ‘A White Man’s Burden’: Oxford University Press, which will decide a borderline grade on the final exam. Note that an acceptable book review could decide an entire letter grade (10%). The following should serve as an example of writing a short review of a book (de Soysa. Review of International Organizations)



Seligson, Mitchell & John Passe-Smith. 2013. Development and Underdevelopment (fifth edition). Lynn Riener.

Acemoglu, Daron  and James Robinson. 2012. Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty. London: Profile Books.

Easterly, William. The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Effort to Aid the Rest Have Done so Much Ill and So Little Good. Oxford.

Bueno de Mesquita, Bruce & Anthony Smith. 2011. The Dictatoręs Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics. New York: Public Affairs.

Wenar, Leif. 2016. Blood Oil: Tyrants, Violence and the Rules that Run the World. Oxford University Press.

Milanovich, Branko. 2016. Global Inequality: A New Approach for

the Age of Globalization. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

All students should read the CALTECH RULES very carefully when thinking about and writing their research projects 




Class meetings & Assignments:


August 23: Introduction to course material.  Intro: The gap between rich and poor & its origins (Seligsen & Passe-Smith, parts 1 & 2;  139 pgs.)


August 30: Inequality, poverty & their consequences (Seligsen & Passe-Smith, parts 3 & 4; 92 pgs.)


Poverty, Inequality, and political conflict—debate (Collier, Hoeffler & Rohner)  (Buhaug, Cederman & Gleditsch)



September 06: Culture vs Dependency? (Seligsen & Passe-Smith, parts 5 & 6; 81 pgs)


Do MNCs exploit poor countries? --- (de Soysa & Oneal 1999)

Does Culture Matter? (Noland 2005) (de Soysa & NordĆs 2007) (Alesina et al 2003)



September 13: Institutions & Geography (Seligsen & Passe-Smith, parts 7 & 8; 124 pgs.) –one-page research question due


How does geography matter? Artificial States & Social fractionalization (Fearon 2003) (Collier, Honohan & Moene 2001)



September 20: Why Nations Fail?  (Acemoglu & Robinson, chs. 1-7;  212 pgs.) Does history & demography matter?  (De Soysa & Vadlamannati) (Bove & Elia 2017)



September 27: Why Nations Fail? cont… (Acemoglu & Robinson, chs. 8-15; 249 pgs.)  Bardhan (2005)   de Soysa (2017)  Weede (2016)



October 04 : The Rich Can Help the Poor? (Easterly, parts 1 & II; 211 pgs.)

            Is aid effective?  (Edwards 2015)  (Easterly & Williamson)


October 11: The White Manęs Burden, cont… (Easterly, parts III & IV; 98 pgs.)  (NO CLASS BUT RESEARCH & WRITING DAY)




October 18: Dictatoręs Handbook  Chs. 1-6. Book Review of White Manęs Burden due



October 25: Dictatoręs Handbook, cont. chs. 7-end.


Democracy = Equality?  

Bermeo (2009)  Scheve & Stasavage (2017)



The Natural Resource Curse?


November 01: Blood Oil   Chs. 1-9


November 08: Blood Oil cont….


November 15: Globalization? Milanovich (Chs. Intro - 3)


November 22: Milanovich (chs. 3-5)



Final Paper Due: November 29th, 2017. Date for oral examination TBA.