The Political Economy of Global and Local Inequality: The Welfare State, Developmental State, and Poverty

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In the last few decades, there has been a dramatic increase in inequality at both the national and international levels. While there is increasing acceptance of the importance of monitoring inequality (e.g., by the World Bank, UNDP), there is far more disagreement about national and global inequality trends, what the fundamental determinants of inequality are, how inequality should be measured, what causes shifts in inequality, what impact it will have upon domestic and global politics and economic relations, and what policy responses are appropriate. This interdisciplinary course will consider a wide range of theoretical analyses to address these questions. At the international level, since states are embedded in an increasingly interwoven market system, we will discuss the issue of persistent market inequalities by analyzing different theories of market competition and their implications for international trade. This analysis of international competition will allow us to study the constraints within which individual states operate in order to promote domestic socioeconomic development policies. In the fall semester, we will discuss the theoretical debates and their implications; in the spring, we will analyze the concrete development experiences of a number of countries in order to consider the interactions among development, democracy, and economic inequality. In both semesters, we will discuss the relationship between the welfare state and the developmental state and how they have shaped the links among development, inequality, and poverty. Issues of taxation and industrial policies will be combined with analyses of state capacity building and the ways in which domestic and international power structures shape a state’s ability to bring about socioeconomic development. This seminar is designed for students who are interested in studying concrete problems in development along with the analytical/theoretical factors that underpin them. It requires no prior background in economics but does require some background in the social sciences. Students are advised to take the class for the whole year in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the subject.