POL20180 Capitalism and Democracy

Academic Year 2021/2022

This module introduces students to the politics of inequality in the advanced capitalist democracies of the world.

We consider the following questions: can liberal democracies solve the problems of contemporary capitalism? If there are more poor people than rich people in liberal democracies, why don't the poor soak the rich? Has the middle class been growing or shrinking? Does inequality impact party politics, electoral competition, and voting behaviour? Are capitalism and democracy complementary, or conflictual? To what extent is economic inequality undermining the conditions for liberal democracy?

The course is organised into five parts. First, we analyse basic concepts and theories in the study of capitalist democracy (weeks 1-3). Second, we examine the structural transformation of capitalism from the post-war period to the present day (weeks 4-5). Third, we analyse the empirical trends in income inequalities (week 6-7), before discussing wealth inequalities (week 8-9). Fourth, we examine the whether economic inequality shapes voting behaviour within capitalist democracies, and discuss why inequality differs so much between market economies (weeks 10-11). To conclude, we will ask whether the political and policy response to the global financial crisis in 2008-2010 has exacerbated inequalities, and led to rising support for nationalist politics? (week 12).

Throughout the module I will make reference to contemporary political events, and link these back to what we’re studying. This will include events related to the impact of globalisation and technological change; austerity; the changing labour market dynamics of social class; the brave new world of central banking and financialisation; corporate tax avoidance; rising nationalism; and populism.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

The course is an introduction to the politics of advanced capitalism in a globalised world. it focuses on how social scientists have tried to understand and explain cross national variation in distributional outcomes. Each lecture is constructed around a core reading in the prescribed textbook, which you must complete before coming to class. All lectures are participatory with each student expected to contribute toward discussions. It is both conceptual and empirical. Learning outcomes include research, professional and personal skills enhancement.

The course will improve your capacity for:

Critical thinking
Self management
Problem solving
Dataset awareness
Conceptual rigor
Analytic argumentation
Comparative case study knowledge

The book that we will use is Thomas Piketty's "Capital in the 21st Century" (2014). You are strongly advised to purchase the book, and start reading it in advance of the lectures.

We will also use an edited volume called "The Politics of Advanced Capitalism" (2015).

An active blog, facebook page and twitter hashtag will be used to encourage regular deliberation among students. #CapitalUCD

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Autonomous Student Learning






Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
In 2020/2021, this module will be delivered online.

This will include live and recorded lectures , dedicated online video chats between lecturer and students, peer and group learning, amongst other remote based teaching tools. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Continuous Assessment: In-Class MCQ test Varies over the Trimester n/a Graded No


Essay: Term Paper Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded Yes


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring Yes - 2 Hour
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Group/class feedback will be provided. Where possible, feedback will be provided via your Brightspace page.

Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 28, 29, 30, 31 Mon 11:00 - 12:50