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What kinds of processes anchor the dynamism of local economies? What creates economic resilience and upward mobility in some places, while creating economic disruption and instability or uneven development in others? How can we foster more equitable, resilient, and locally rooted, yet globally competitive economies that create inclusive wellbeing?  This course critically examines how theories and frameworks of economic development translate into local economic development processes and practices on the ground.  Changing global economic trends and findings from new empirical research have posed several new challenges to our understanding of how economic development takes root, and how cities and regions develop economically, change, and grow. This course provides undergraduates and graduate students with critical skills to understand and analyze the workings of local and regional economies.  We will examine frameworks related to the division of labor, uneven development, spread and backwash effects, mass production and its transformation to networked systems of production, agglomeration economies, clusters and global value chains, social capital and social networks, decentralization and participation, street level bureaucracy and technical change, and ways in which the human potential and that institutions and natural resources (water, energy and so on) can be equitably harnessed for a more humane, innovative, resilient and income-distributing form of development that takes into account the pressures of a changing climate in an uncertain, volatile and shifting world.


An important goal of the course is to peel away the layers of orthodox economic thought to shine a light on the assumptions that undergird them, as well as understand the inner, often hidden, workings of economic development processes. We will analyze frameworks that help us understand development as a more malleable and contingent process, with multiple, often contradictory, facets.  Focusing on the conditions under which varied development outcomes take root in various contexts, we move away from homogenizing narratives of development to reflectively and critically draw out lessons about economic development from grounded practice and outcomes. This helps us better understand the institutional forces that may contribute to broad based, locally rooted, inclusive, and resilient development; and why this happens more readily in some places and times than others.

This course was previously numbered PLAN 773