nl en

Institutions of Governance and Development



[BSc], GED, ID, PSc

Admission requirements


Course description

Global challenges are nearly all at some level issues of governance and development. Why are some countries poor while others are wealthy? Why don’t well-established seemingly well-functioning countries tackle serious challenges like climate change more aggressively? Why are human rights enforced by governments in some countries, while not in others? Why are some diverse communities pacific and cooperative, while others are divisive and violent? As a foundational course of the Governance, Economics, and Development major (as well as the Policy Science, and ID majors), this course aims to provide students with a foundational understanding of how to tackle these questions.

This course does this by introducing students to the institutional perspective, which focuses on the formal and informal rules that structure human interaction. This framework can provide powerful insights into these questions as evaluating the institutional foundations of decisions within and development of communities across time provides strong testable inferences about the origins of problems.

More importantly, perhaps, the institutional perspective suggest an avenue by which we can look for solution to these challenges because many institutions are of intentional human design, and thus can be designed differently. In other cases, a scientific understanding of the constraints facing human individuals may not point the way to solutions, but at least suggest which solutions are unlikely to work or worse, may have less desirable consequences.

By exploring these themes, students who enroll in this course will be presented with, and asked to critically engage with many if not most of the themes of the Governance, Economics, and Development programme in a unified framework.

Learning objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, students will:

  • establish clear definitions of and distinctions between questions of governance and questions of development;

  • Develop foundational skills of institutional analysis, and concepts;

  • be able to critically reflect on the role of institutional analysis in providing a foundation for a scientific understanding of society, as well as appreciate its limits;

  • demonstrate proficiency in analyzing cases of historical development of social systems across time using institutional concepts and analysis;

  • demonstrate proficiency in analysis cases of governance within more short-run social environments using institutional concepts and analysis.

Compulsory textbook

North, Douglas. 1990. Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Other reading excerpts will be provided via a course reader.