Transitions to good governance

This class is an empirical investigation into what factors drive the transition of a society from corruption as the governance norm – where public resource distribution is systematically biased in favour of authority holders and those connected with them – to corruption as an exception, therefore a state that is largely autonomous towards private interest and the allocation of public resources is based on ethical universalism (everyone treated equally and fairly). Despite the nearly-universal recognition that the key to sustainable prosperity lies in the transition from extractive to inclusive institutions, we know very little about how to bring about such virtuous circles in governance, in other words, about how to engineer positive institutional change and avoid institutional decay. This has become the paramount question in development, with the works of Acemoglu and Robinson being the biggest influence on a whole generation of economists working on the quality of institutions and on political scientists working on the quality of government.

This is a class on comparative political development. In this class, we study and research this question not as a static, path-determined one,  but with the view of identifying theories of change based in the political economy of specific contexts. The main authors to be read are Francis Fukuyama, Acemoglu and Robinson, authors who use comparative methods, either historical or econometrical, as well as country-specific authors – all for the purpose of developing a theory of how quality of government (or good governance) comes about. Our own research centre at the Hertie School is well-acknowledged for its work in its field, so we shall use our very recent contributions for the World Bank or the European Union to explore these answers and have some of our research partners come to class.

The class will be divided into two sections, one exploring factors of good governance and theories of change across the world - both from a contemporary and historical perspective (looking at elements such as education, equality, stability, democracy, constitutional factors and economic policies), and the other focusing on each continent – on its governance trends, achievers and laggards. Both the literature and the student assignments will be selected to make this a comparative methods class at the same time. Students will be able to choose between a quantitative approach, testing one factor (policy intervention) across multiple cases, or focus on small comparisons based on a careful case selection. Historical approaches (process-tracing) will also be encouraged.

This course is for 2nd year MIA and MPP students only.