POL41780 The Politics of Inequality

Academic Year 2023/2024

This course is an advanced study on the politics of income and wealth inequality. We ask what economic inequalities are justified in a democracy? We empirically assess the increased concentration of capital ownership and wealth within the capitalist democracies of the world. We ask whether the increased concentration of wealth and capital ownership is a problem for democracy? Does it lead to concentrated economic power that undermines market competition? Does it lead to unequal democracy? If so, through what mechanisms? We empirically assess whether voters care about economic inequalities; analyse the growing importance of housing unaffordability; study how the rich influence government; and analyse the role of law in creating the structures of multinational profit-shifting and corporate tax avoidance. We conclude with a discussion on whether pro-market, pro-democratic reforms require a strong state that challenges concentrated corporate power.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

Understand the normative debates on democracy, justice and inequality, and how these pertain to questions of wealth.

Understand the empirical trends in income and wealth inequality between and within the rich democracies of the world.

Understand the determinants of increased wealth and income inequalities.

Understand the empirical and theoretical debates about whether or not this is considered a democratic problem.

Understand the determinants of voter attitudes and public opinion toward economic redistribution and wealth inequalities.

Understand the different types of wealth inequalities that exist.

Understand the importance of housing wealth, and housing unaffordability in shaping voter attitudes and behaviour.

Understand the theoretical and empirical debates about whether or not the super-rich have more influence on government policy.

Understand the conditions under which states need to enforce market competition to avoid concentrated corporate power.

Understand how law creates the complex structures of multinational profit shifting and corporate tax avoidance.

Understand the theoretical and normative debates about whether or not the state needs to weaken property rights to defend capitalism and democracy from concentrated economic power.

Indicative Module Content:

This is provided in the detailed syllabus on Brightspace.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Autonomous Student Learning


Seminar (or Webinar)




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 In Module Component Repeat Offered
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
Resit In Terminal Exam
Summer 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?

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