GV4D4      Half Unit
The Politics of Inequality and Redistribution

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Jonathan Hopkin CON5.18


This course is available on the MSc in Comparative Politics, MSc in EU Politics, MSc in EU Politics (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in Global Politics, MSc in Global Politics (Global Civil Society), MSc in Inequalities and Social Science, MSc in Political Science and Political Economy, MSc in Public Administration and Government (LSE and Peking University) and MSc in Public Policy and Administration. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course is capped at three groups. The deadline for receipt of applications will likely be between Friday 25 September and Friday 9 October 2015, depending on the course. The exact deadline for applications will be confirmed at your programme induction.

Course content

This course provides an overview of contemporary redistributive politics in the rich democracies. The objective is to explain why the distribution of wealth, income and opportunities differs so much between democratic countries with similar levels of economic development. The course draws largely on literature from the field of comparative politics, although perspectives from other disciplines - such as economics and social policy - are brought in as appropriate. The focus is on tracing the interactions between political institutions such as political parties and elections, labour market institutions, and the redistributive institutions of the welfare state. This approach is used to examine the growth of the public sector in the twentieth century, the differences between Social Democratic and Christian Democratic welfare states, the impact of wage bargaining institutions, the redistributive implications of age, gender and territorial location, and redistribution through corruption and rent-seeking. By tracing interactions between constitutional arrangements, electoral politics, and the institutions of the welfare system and the labour market, explanations can be provided for the striking differences in social cohesion and human development amongst the world's rich democracies.


15 hours of lectures and 16 hours and 30 minutes of seminars in the MT. 1 hour of lectures and 1 hour of seminars in the LT.

Lecture will run weeks 1-10. Seminars will run weeks 1-11.


Formative coursework

All students are expected to submit one non-assessed essay.

Indicative reading

Esping-Andersen, Gosta (1990), The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism. Cambridge: Polity Press; Piketty, Thomas (2014), Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge: Belknapp; Alesina, Alberto and Edward Glaeser (2004). Fighting Poverty in the US and Europe. A World of Difference. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.

Student performance results

(2011/12 - 2013/14 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 18.3
Merit 66.3
Pass 15.4
Fail 0

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2014/15: 59

Average class size 2014/15: 15

Controlled access 2014/15: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Commercial awareness