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Economy: Latin America


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies programme.
Limited places are also open for exchange students.
Please note: this course takes place in The Hague. Traveling between University buildings from Leiden to The Hague may take about 45 minutes.


This course examines the economic and social inequalities in Latin America and their historical, political, and social roots. It aims to equip students with an understanding of economic processes in the region and the ways in which they intersect with identity markers to reinforce inequalities. The course engages with political economy approaches to expose the structural and normative consonance between political and economic aspects and the reproduction of inequalities in the region.

The course is split into two blocks. Block one examines the macroeconomic features of the region, such as different phases of development and their interpretive framework primarily based on ‘dependency theory’. Block two examines why inequalities persist in Latin America, the role of the state and public policies in exacerbating them, and the political economy of inequality, dependence and extractivism. The course challenges consolidated assumptions and interpretations, presenting contrasting perspectives to encourage academic debate and critical thinking.

The course materials embrace heterodox approaches, including dependency theories, which critique and transform economicist narratives. Students will engage in discussion groups and written assignments to identify fundamental premises, contextualize their arguments, and back up their claims during class discussions.

Overall, the course aims to provide students with a foundation in economic development as it occurs in the Latin American region and to enable them to understand the challenges the region faces and to contribute to academic debates on economic development.

Course objectives

By the end of the course, students will have acquired an overview of the historical and contemporary economic developments and political economy dynamics in their chosen area and deepen their existing knowledge and understanding of different economic systems, economic institutions, economic processes and actors in the different countries of the region, using the concepts acquired during the courses Principles of Economics and Foundations of Political Economy.

Students will also be acquainted with academic debates on selected topics in the specific region. They will be introduced to key concepts e.g. terms of trade, trade balance, that can provide an interpretive view of economic development in the region, reflecting on the changing theoretical perspectives.

By tracing different approaches to economic development in the region, the course aims at providing students with sufficient theoretical tools to understand and situate ways of thinking about development in historically specific configurations, assessing the resulting economic performance but also its social consequences and its political drivers.

After the course, students will have developed:

  • Knowledge and understanding of the most important classic and contemporary theories in the field of economics and political economy necessary for the understanding of the global economy;

  • Knowledge and understanding of key concepts and concept structures in the field of economics and political economy necessary for the understanding of the global economy;

  • Basic knowledge and understanding of methods in the field of economics and political economy relevant to the understanding of the global economy;

  • A further knowledge and understanding of relevant methods in the field of economics and political economy;

  • Knowledge and understanding of the position of Latin America in the world from a global perspective;

  • Knowledge and understanding of the economic developments in Latin America from a global perspective;

  • In-depth knowledge of the political economy of finance, trade, industrialisation, welfare and natural resources in its global context.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction


Lectures are held every week, with the exception of the midterm exam week. Weekly lectures will cover issues both inside and outside the readings.


Tutorials are held once every three weeks, with the exception of the midterm exam week. Attending all tutorial sessions is compulsory. If you are unable to attend a session, please inform your Tutorial-lecturer in advance. Being absent at more than one of the tutorial sessions will result in a lowering of your tutorial grade (40% of the end grade) with 1 point for each session missed after the first session. Please note that being absent at any tutorial session may have a negative impact on the grade of the assignment due for that particular tutorial session. This is at the discretion of the Tutorial-lecturer.

Assessment method


  • Midterm Exam:
    Written examination with short open questions.

  • Final Exam:
    Written examination with short open questions and (up to) 50% essay question.


Partial grade Weighing
Tutorials 40%
Midterm Exam 30%
Final Exam 30%

End Grade

To successfully complete the course, please take note of the following:

  • The end grade of the course is established by determining the weighted average of Tutorial grade, Midterm Exam grade, and Final Exam grade.

  • The weighted average of the Midterm Exam grade and the Final Exam grade needs to be 5.5 or higher.

  • This means that failing Exam grades cannot be compensated with a high Tutorial grade.


If the end grade is insufficient (lower than a 6.0), or the weighted average of Midterm- and Final Exams is lower than 5.5, there is a possibility of retaking the full 60% of the exam material, replacing both the earlier Midterm- and Final Exam grades. No resit for the tutorial is possible.
Please note that if the Resit Exam grade is lower than 5.5, you will not pass the course, regardless of the tutorial grade.

Retaking a passing grade

Please consult the Course and Examination Regulations 2023 – 2024.

Exam review and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organised.

Reading list

In addition to assigned peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and ECLAC reports, students are strongly recommended to familiarize themselves with the content of the following books:

  • Bértola, Luis., and José Antonio. Ocampo. Economic Development of Latin America Since Independence. Initiative for Policy Dialogue. Oxford: OUP Oxford, 2012.

  • Sánchez-Ancochea, Diego. The Costs of Inequality in Latin America: Lessons and Warnings for the Rest of the World, 2021.

  • Kay, Cristóbal. Latin American Theories of Development and Underdevelopment. London (etc.): Routledge, 1989.

These books provide a comprehensive overview of the economic development and social inequalities in the Latin American region and offer insights into the theories and approaches discussed in the course.


General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website.

Registration Exchange

For the registration of exchange students contact Humanities International Office.



All other information.