Democracy and Inequality (L2099)

30 credits, Level 6

Spring teaching

Over the last couple of decades income inequality has increased in almost all developed democracies. This gap between the rich and the poor has widened even further since the onset of the financial crisis, while the gains of the very rich, particularly in the United States but also several other developed countries, have led some commentators to characterise the current situation as the 'hollowing out' of the middle class. This module examines the origins of income inequality and the consequences of the increasing inequality for the quality of democracy. We start with a review of trends in income inequality across countries and over time and considers the normative foundations underpinning the study of inequality. We then moves to examine the institutional and political foundations of income inequality focusing on how electoral systems, parties, corporatism and economic institutions shape redistribution and inequality. The final part concentrates on the political effects of inequality and considers how inequality shapes democratic politics by influencing political polarisation, democratic representation and participation in elections.


100%: Seminar


100%: Written assessment (Dissertation)

Contact hours and workload

This module is 300 hours of work. This breaks down into 36 hours of contact time and 264 hours of independent study.

This module is running in the academic year 2017/18. We also plan to offer it in future academic years. It may become unavailable due to staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of such changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: