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The Political Economy of Natural Resource-led Development



The course is an advanced graduate module on the political economy of natural resource-based development in the Global South. It critically explores key issues on natural resource politics and governance, including the political and economic factors that shape mining and energy policies in the developing world and their impacts on world markets, the interactions between states, multinational capital (MNCs), and state enterprises (SOEs) in extractive industries, the role of China and emerging powers in the sector, the challenges of managing resource wealth, and the causal linkages between resource dependency and development, institutions, and political systems. It draws from International and Comparative Political Economy, with an emphasis on why some countries are able to use natural resource wealth for development whilst others fail. The course will examine complex patterns of state-martket relations in developed and developing countries, and it will focus on institutions, policies, and governance arrangements that help inform contemporary understanding on the natural resource-economic development dilemma. We will focus on oil, gas, mining, timber, and new forms of unconventional energy as well as a broad range of geographical areas to show how different countries and regions have used resources for national development. The module is taught primarily through a combination of lectures and seminars: lectures provide some overall framework regarding the conceptual debates and issues whilst the seminars structure students’ learning and provide an environment in which they can develop their skills in researching, presenting and debating arguments drawn from the academic literature on political economy of international development.

The course will be divided into three sections. The first part centres on key questions about states, markets and the changing political economy of resource-led development. Why do extractive industries generate high rents? What are the overarching theories in political economy that explain the limited success of resource-rich countries and regions in achieving industrialization and inclusive development? What are the key political and economic manifestations of the resource curse? In responding the challenges of resource governance, what kinds of policies and institutional arrangements can mitigate the curse? What is the effect of mineral dependence on institutions and vice versa? Why is there such wide variation as regards institutional design and regulatory frameworks in strategic commodities? What is the role of sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) in good governance of resources? Do natural resource funds work? These questions around policy designs and governance will be discussed in the context of historical and recent experiences in resource management.

The second part examines actors, politics, and processes in the management of natural resources. What is the role of China and other emerging powers in shaping the dynamics of the industry? explains the rising trend of resource nationalism in 2000s and its subsequent decline after the commodity price bust? Why are SOEs less common in mining than in oil? Crucially, what roles do multinational corporations (MNCs) and state-owned enterprises (SOEs) play in opening up developmental spaces for resource-rich regions in the Global South? Does corporate social responsibility work as a means to achieve resource-led growth? Finally, to what extent do international intiatives and global institutions support conflict management initiatives in resource-rich countries?

The final part looks into the future of resource exploitation from a development perspective. We explore the role of new technologies and the importance of unconventional energy in economic development. We will focus on the recent initiatives to exploit the Arctic Circle, the biofuels revolution, the spread of emerging technologies like fracking, and the politics of climate compatible energy strategies.

Course objectives

This unit aims to meet the Department’s overall teaching and learning aims, and more specifically:

  • To develop knowledge of the different theoretical approaches to the political economy of natural resources;

  • To apply conceptual tools to assess the ways natural resources can be leveraged for economic development using specific cases;

  • To demonstrate appropriate cognitive, communicative and transferable skills, including to understand complex concepts and theories, utilising primary and secondary sources, and deepening the capacity for independent learning.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the unit, the student will be able to:

  • Demonstrate independent and critical understanding of the most important aspects of natural resource governance in the context of political economy and development studies.

  • Show awareness of the relationship between theory and empirical evidence in relation to international relations, natural resource politics, and political economy.

  • Discuss, explain and link major political science concepts with natural resource governance, including but not limited to natural capital/wealth, resource rents, resource curse, good governance, sovereign wealth funds, rentier states, and global governance.

  • Construct coherent, independent and critical arguments written in scholarly and grammatically correct essays that are referenced in accordance with established academic practice.

In addition, students are expected to gain

  • Analytical skills in political economy, comparative politics and development studies through primary or secondary sources for academic purposes;

  • Skills in preparing and delivering presentations;

  • Skills in working independently as well as a team;

  • Specialist social science knowledge in the political economy of key commodities, including oil, gas, mining, and unconventional energy, as applied to a range of case studies.

Mode of instruction

The module consists of lectures and seminars. It is ESSENTIAL that you do the core/required readings prior to the sessions and come prepared to discuss the material in depth. Some sessions will have short presentations by fellow students or the lecturer. In every seminar, an allocated group of students will lead the discussion by providing short presentations about the case studies related to previous lectures. The case studies can be selected based on the lectures, literature covered, or in consultation with the lecturer. These seminars are aimed at enhancing the independent learning of students. Students may likewise wish to discuss with the lecturer additional case studies. All students must take an active role in preparing and presenting the cases during the seminar. Even if you are not leading the session, you are expected to do the reading to contribute to the overall discussion.

Course Load

A brief calculation of the course load, broken down by:

  • Total course load for the course (number of EC x 28 hours), for a course of 5 EC is 140 hours, for 10 EC 280.

  • Hours spent on attending lectures and seminars (eg 2 hours per week x 14 weeks = 28 hours)

  • Time for studying the compulsory literature (as a possible criterion approx. 7 pages per hour with deviations up and down depending on the material to be studied) (if applicable) time for completing assignments, whether in preparation at the college

  • (If applicable) time to write a paper (including reading / research)

Assessment method

The assessment for this module is a 2-side (A4) policy briefing document (20%) and a 2,000 word essay (80%).

Reading list

See Blackboard


See Preliminary Info

This course is earmarked for the specialisations NECD, IP and PPD




Lecturer: Jojo Nem Singh (5.B.57) can be reached through his office hours or appointments