Political Economy of Development

Mar 2015

This was an excellent course. Blattman managed convey exactly why development is so interesting by demonstrating how it's at the intersection of many, many fascinating subfields. The scope of the course is enormous, but the readings are well-chosen and I felt as though I'd ultimaetly read at least a bit of the key literature in every he discussed. Blattman's lectures were engaging, he was always well-prepared for class, and he clearly knows the material incredibly well. Perhaps most importantly, he did an effective job of connecting niche research projects to broader trends in the field and deep philosophical questions about development. That said, this class could be way, way better if Intermediate Macroeconomics or even just Principles of Econ were required as prerequisites. Watching Blattman -- who has a PhD in economics -- explain simple macro concepts to people who just haven't taken any econ was painful. If you know some econ beforehand, you will get significantly more out of this class. The TA's for this class were terrible across the board, through no fault of Blattman's. They did not know the material and at times they took months to return assignments. My TA in particular would regularly cancel section because she overslept -- but that's okay, because section was pretty useless anyway. But forget about the TAs. Take this course! I've used what I learned there in every econ and political science class I've taken since.

Aug 2011

Political Economy of Development is an excellent class. Professor Frye is hugely knowledgeable and has clearly taken time to construct a course that isn't too rigid in the topics it covers, but is also much more than a superficial review of the topic literature. Frye lectures for most of the class, with some diversions for questions and debate. He is not the best lecturer in the world, but he is capable. Most importantly, you can tell he really sees the info as valuable and worth learning. The only issue is when wannabe smarty pants try to over complicate things with their comments. Frye is almost too nice to suggest they stop derailing the knowledge train. It is important to stay up to date with the readings, as he will call on people in class to get a quick tidbit about what the reading was about, or what the implication of a concept might be. It can be a little nerve-racking, but he really doesn't seem to hold it against you if you don't know and there were some pretty funny deflections in class. Overall, I highly recommend this course. It shows you the many sides to political science scholarship in a way that will get you thinking globally and pragmatically.

May 2011

I'll echo the sentiments of the last two reviewers -- Frye is a good man, an excellent teacher, and a very fair professor. If you're into Russia, taking Frye's class is a must, as he is a pretty big scholar on the post-Communist state. If you're a freshman or sophomore looking to take this class, I might recommend holding off until you have at least 3 or 4 other PoliSci classes under your belt because the development stuff is a bit trickier than your general intro class. The workload is pretty standard, though you really really need to get started on the research paper way in advance if you want it to come out decently. Speaking from experience, you could write it the night before but (as you could imagine) that's really stressful. Be sure to find a group of people you can split the readings with and start splitting up the material from Day 1. The summaries will be invaluable come midterm and final season and save you a lot of anxiety and time. Overall, a good class but just be sure you're up to the challenge (albeit small).

May 2011

I agree with the last reviewer - give this man a silver nugget. Frye's Political Economy of Development class is well-structured, informative, fair, and engaging. The class basically seeks to explain development outcomes of different countries by looking at the interactions between politics and economics. It is a poli sci course, so there are no econ formulas, but it will be very helpful to understand basic macroeconomic theory before taking this class. As far as the class goes, it's largely theoretical with a big emphasis on how to conduct a good comparative study between different countries or regions. During the first semester, you learn different theories for development, based around foreign aid, natural resources, institutions (democracy), corruption, globalization, and finally social capital. During the second semester, you study different regions in depth (Latin America, China, Africa, and post-Communist Russia, Frye's specialty) while seeking to apply the development theories you've learned. The class is organized very logically, and if you keep up with the syllabus you should learn a lot. As far as actually succeeding in the class, the key is to keep up with the readings and to be able to summarize each of them, because 1) the lectures are basically a discussion about the readings, and 2) the final and midterm are based around the readings. The final paper is completely open-ended, which is exciting but also challenging.. reach out to TAs early and often (they're actually very helpful). Overall, for anyone interested in developing countries, this is an excellent course. It really gives you a deep understanding about why it's so hard to solve world poverty problems. Frye himself is not preachy; he simply states the facts. He's a solid lecturer with a wry sense of humor, and he is very helpful in person. He does take attendance by calling on students randomly from the class roster, so be sure to show up.

Apr 2011

This man deserves at LEAST a silver nugget. His class on political economy of development was engaging, informative, and well-structured. We covered a breadth of topics, which I felt, gave me a good introduction to the topic. Frye himself is approachable, articulate, and smart. He lectures alongside sparse powerpoints for most of the class--everything is well structured and organized. If I were interested in Russia I would take the class he is teaching next fall.

May 2010

engaging, interactive lectures and interesting readings (long!) on all kinds of political problems of economic development. frye has a lot of funny little stories to tell and gives a great overview of the main topics. because the topic is so large, the syllabus seems crammed sometimes but it's a great class overall, especially when you're interested in both econ and poli-sci. the midterm and the final are IDs and essay questions and sum up to less than half your final grade. you have to write two papers that you can hand in whenever. Frye and the TAs give quite a bit of help so it's doable. if you don't mind the reading and that you have to come up with your own ideas once in a while, take the class!