POL41780 The Politics of Inequality

Academic Year 2022/2023

This module is an advanced graduate seminar on the politics of inequality in the advanced capitalist democracies of the world. In part one, we examine the socio-structural transformation of capitalism from the post-war period to the present. Students will examine how socio-structural changes within global capitalism have impacted jobs, employment, labour markets, and social class formations . We study why different nation-states have responded differently to globalisation, and the role of the welfare state in this process. We also study the role of macro economic ideas in shaping fiscal and monetary policy, and how these powerful ideas have changed over time. In part two, we study the political conflicts that arise from economic inequality. We examine the precise distribution of income and wealth within countries and over time, focusing on the rise of top incomes, and the extreme concentration of wealth. We study how unequal access to housing wealth increasingly shapes political conflict today . In the third part of the course, we move on to examine how economic inequalities impact voting behaviour. We examine competing theories on the role of income and education in shaping new class conflicts, voter preference formation, anti-system politics, and new forms of party competition in advanced capitalist democracies. We conclude by asking whether voters matter at all in shaping the dynamics of global capitalism? We study the quiet politics of business power and the role of big corporations in shaping public policy. Throughout the course we will also discuss climate capitalism and the politics of carbon inequality.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

Understand the determinants behind socio-structural changes within advanced capitalist democracies.

Understand how this impacts jobs, occupations, employment, and social class formations.

Understand the hierarchical nature of global supply and wealth chains, and how different nation-states occupy different positions within this hierarchy of global markets.

Understand how national welfare states have shaped how different countries have responded to global market changes.

Understand comparative political economy theories on varieties of welfare capitalism and national growth models.

Understand international political economy theories on the role of business power in capitalist democracies.

Understand the precise distribution of income and wealth within advanced capitalist democracies.

Understand how to empirically gather and analyse income and wealth data.

Know which data sources to use for examining the distribution of economic growth within countries.

Understand why some countries have higher levels of income and wealth inequalities than others.

Understand the determinants of housing wealth inequalities in advanced capitalist democracies.

Understand how income and education impact voting behaviour, preference formation and party competition.

Indicative Module Content:

This is provided in the detailed syllabus on Brightspace.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Seminar (or Webinar)


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This is an interactive graduate seminar.

You are expected to do all weekly readings, write short weekly responses to these readings on brightspace, and actively contribute to class discussions. 
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
Assignment: An end-of-term essay/paper. Unspecified n/a Graded No


Continuous Assessment: Each week, in advance of class, you must post a 100/150 word reaction to the seminar topic/question of the week. A minimum of 10 weekly submissions is required to pass this component of the course. 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?

Written feedback on assignments with the option for further feedback in office hours

This will be provided in the syllabus on Brightspace.
Name Role
Mr Daniel Stairs Lecturer / Co-Lecturer