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 consider the normative foundations underpinning the study of inequality. We then move 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 of the module concentrates on the political effects of inequality. It considers how inequality shapes democratic politics by influencing political polarisation, democratic representation and participation in elections.


9%: Practical (Workshop)
91%: Seminar


100%: Written assessment (Dissertation)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 300 hours of work. This breaks down into about 33 hours of contact time and about 267 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2024/25. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to feedback, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let you know of any material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: