Fall 2023

The Political Economy of Petro States: Venezuela Compared

Listed in: Political Science, as POSC-231


Javier Corrales (Section 01)


This is a modified version of POSC 232, The Political Economy of Development. The first half of the course is identical to 232, but the second half will have a different focus: the political economy of oil. This section will explore the extent to which oil is a “resource curse,” the neo-structuralist notion that an abundance of a natural resource, in this case oil, is detrimental for development because it distorts economic incentives (away from diversification) and distorts politics (by facilitating corruption, raising the stakes of power-holding, increasing the chance for abuse of state power, and weakening society’s capacity to hold the state accountable). We will examine these hypotheses by focusing on Venezuela, one of the world’s leading oil producers. Until the 1980s, Venezuela was considered an example of democratization. In the 1990s, Venezuela became instead a paradigmatic case of policy incoherence. In the early 2000s, under the Hugo Chávez administration, Venezuela became a case of political polarization, and some argue, rising authoritarianism. The second half of this course will assess whether the resource-curse theory provides the best account of Venezuela’s politics since the 1980s. To address this question, we will: (1) compare the resource-curse argument with other competing theories of development that might account for Venezuelan politics; and (2) compare the Venezuelan case with other cases in Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. This course fulfills requirements for the Five College Certificates in Latin American Studies and International Relations.

Not open to students who have taken POSC 232. Admission with the consent of the instructor. Limited to 35 students. Fall semester. Professor Corrales.

How to handle overenrollment: Priority given to Political Science majors. Others admitted to balance by class year and major.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Emphasis written work, readings, independent research, oral presentations, group work.

POSC 231 - LEC

Section 01
Tu 2:30 PM - 3:50 PM BEBU 107
Th 2:30 PM - 3:50 PM BEBU 107

ISBN Title Publisher Author(s) Comment Book Store Price
Dragon in the Tropics: Venezuela and the Legacy of Hugo Chavez Brookings Institute Press Javier Corrales and Michael Penfold Amherst Books TBD
The Oil Curse: How Petroleum Wealth Shapes the Development of Nations Princeton University Press Michael Ross Amherst Books TBD

These books are available locally at Amherst Books.


Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2014, Spring 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2020, Fall 2023