POL30880 Capitalism and Democracy

Academic Year 2023/2024

This module introduces students to the political economy of advanced capitalist democracies.

In part one, we examine the structural transformation of capitalism from the 1950’s to the present. We will study how globalisation and economic liberalisation has impacted jobs, labour markets, and social class formations . We identify distinct growth models within the rich democracies of the world, and seek to explain the determinants behind different varieties of welfare capitalism. We pay particular attention to the role of economic ideas in shaping politics and policymaking.

In part two, we examine the distributional and political conflicts that arise in capitalist democracies. We study how income and wealth inequalities have been shaped by the transition to "knowledge-based economies", paying particular attention to the concentration of wealth and top incomes. We also examine housing inequalities and the rise of global carbon inequalities.

In part three, we examine how these economic inequalities impact preference formation, party competition and voting behaviour in advanced capitalist democracies. We study the "quiet politics" of business power and the role of multinational corporations in influencing public policy. The module concludes by discussing whether advanced capitalist democracies can solve the climate crisis.

The module is structured around the following questions:

What explains the structural transformation of capitalism over time?
What is the institutional relationship between democracy and markets?
Why is market income so concentrated at the top?
What explains the rise of wealth inequalities?
Why are some capitalist democracies more unequal than others?
How do economic ideas get institutionalised in policymaking?
Do voters actually care about economic redistribution?
How do income, wealth & education intersect to shape voting behaviour?
Does business power explain the dynamics of advanced capitalism?

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

Understand the socio-structural transformation of advanced capitalist market economies from 1970-present.
Understand how the changing nature of labour markets impact employment structures and occupations.
Understand the various political economy theories that seek to explain the cause and effect of globalisation on voting behaviour.
Understand comparative political economy theories on the determinants behind different varieties of welfare capitalism and growth models.
Understand international political economy theories on the influence of quiet politics, expertise and business power in capitalist democracies.
Understand why some countries have higher levels of income and wealth inequalities than others.
Understand the role of financialisation in shaping the politics of housing wealth inequalities in advanced capitalist democracies.
Understand how income, education, housing wealth, and social class affects voting behaviour, preference formation and party competition.
Understand the intersection of income, wealth and education in shaping new class politics in advanced capitalist democracies.
Understand the challenges and political trade-offs facing governments in how they respond to diverse electoral demands for redistribution.

Indicative Module Content:

A week-by-week syllabus will be provided with core readings to be completed in advance of class.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Autonomous Student Learning






Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
The module will be delivered in-person. Attendance and active participation is required.

The weekly classes will be seminar-based. There will be three core readings per class.

Each class is based around a research question that address these readings.

The class will start with a discussion of the question, then turn into a lecture format, and finish with roundtable/smaller group discussion.

The overarching teaching philosophy and assessment is informed by problem-based learning. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
POL20180 - Capitalism and Democracy

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Continuous Assessment: You must submit a half-page (250-300 word) response paper to the readings/question every week on Brightspace.

You must submit a minimum of 10 response papers to pass.
Varies over the Trimester n/a Pass/Fail Grade Scale No


Essay: The question of the end of term paper will be provided in week 8 and based on the learning outcomes of the course.

It must be 7 pages, 1.5 spacing (2,000 words), excluding bibliography.
Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No


Attendance: You are expected to attend every class and complete core readings.

This will involve an online interactive mentimeter poll to engage your attendance and participation.
Varies over the Trimester n/a Pass/Fail Grade Scale No


Carry forward of passed components
Remediation Type Remediation Timing
In-Module Resit Prior to relevant Programme Exam Board
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?

Feedback will be provided to students via brightspace.

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) - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 Tues 12:00 - 13:50