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The Politics of Development in Southeast Asia (PO998)


Topics covered

The following is an indicative list of topics; the precise seminar content and order may change slightly from year to year.

  • Understanding development in a Southeast Asian Context - growth with equity or the endurance of poverty?
  • Planning and Plans - development as nation building
  • Aid, donors and development: From the Washington to the Post Washington Consensus
  • Development as Market Building - the everyday commodification of people, nature and things
  • Gender & Development
  • Oligarchs, Oligarchy and the Endurance of Authoritarianism
  • Middle classes, urbanization and civil society
  • Labour politics and migration
  • Illicit economies and the everyday politics of resistance in Southeast Asia: testing the boundaries of the state?

This module encourages students to consider how economic and social development goals are pursued in four Southeast Asian states (Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia and the Philippines) and to explore the problems and dilemmas that arise in relation to development planning and policy-making.

This module, then, is as much about the politics of development (how we understand development, who benefits from development, why particular development trajectories and ideas are privileged over others) as it is about the political economy of specific Southeast Asian states.

Programme content


The initial session of this module serves to introduce students to the four case study countries and asks students to consider why it is that some states are deemed to be developmental success stories and others are not. Have some states been able to successfully pursue ‘growth with equity’ and why does poverty persist? The first part of the module (weeks 2-5) then focuses on the different ways in which development has been and is being pursued in the region in relation to: (a) modes of national development planning; (b) the agendas of International Financial Institutions such as the World Bank; (c) the ongoing marketization of everyday life; and, (d) gender and development agendas.

The second part of the module is more focused on specific social groupings (elites/oligarchs, middle classes, workers, women, migrants and peasants) and how they have been affected by processes associated with economic development. Have some of these groups benefitted from the way in which economic development has been pursued in the region? Do the activities of some of these groups serve to uphold or even challenge forms of development politics salient in the region?

Module Director:
Juanita Elias

CATS: 20 (term 1)

Sample reading list (PDF Document)