GV4E2      Half Unit
Capitalism and Democracy

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr David Woodruff


This course is available on the MSc in Comparative Politics and MSc in Political Science and Political Economy. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Available as an outside option and for students on other programmes with the teacher's consent.

Course content

Compatibility and incompatibility of capitalism and democracy; Constitutional restraints on economic policymaking in central banking and property rights; Democracy and economic inequality; World context and the compatibility of democracy and capitalism; Democracy and economic crisis. This course examines the uneasy interaction between the two dominant concepts underpinning political and economic institutions in advanced industrial societies. It addresses in particular questions about the relationship of capitalism to democracy, both conceptually and empirically. We consider whether democracy undermines or supports capitalism, focusing on policies relating to central banking, redistribution, and property rights. We also examine how capitalism may undermine or sustain democracy and whether contemporary international circumstances heighten the tension between democracy and capitalism.


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the LT. 1 hour of lectures in the ST.

There will be a reading week in week 6 of the LT for dissertation support and preparation.

Formative coursework

All students are expected to submit one non-assessed essay

Indicative reading

Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. Holmes, 'Precommitment and the Paradox of Democracy'. Mill, Considerations on Representative Government. Kalecki, 'Political Aspects of Full Employment'. Olson, 'Dictatorship, Democracy, and Development'. Stiglitz, 'Central Banking in a Democratic Society'. Beard, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States. Kenworthy and Pontusson, 'Rising Inequality and the Politics of Redistribution in Affluent Countries.'


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

Student performance results

(2011/12 - 2013/14 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 7
Merit 66.1
Pass 26.1
Fail 0.9

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2014/15: 48

Average class size 2014/15: 16

Controlled access 2014/15: No

Lecture capture used 2014/15: Yes (LT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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

Course survey results

(2011/12 - 2013/14 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 75.4%



Reading list (Q2.1)


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