EU4A4      Half Unit
The Politics of Inequality and Redistribution

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Jonathan Hopkin


This course is available on the MSc in Comparative Politics, MSc in European and International Public Policy, MSc in European and International Public Policy (LSE and Bocconi), MSc in European and International Public Policy (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in Global Politics, MSc in Inequalities and Social Science, MSc in Political Economy of Europe, MSc in Political Economy of Europe (LSE and Sciences Po), 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 with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This course provides an overview of the politics of inequality 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, particularly in Europe. The course draws largely on political science, although perspectives from other disciplines - such as economics and social policy - are brought in as appropriate. The focus is on understanding how institutions and policies redistribute resources in different ways across countries and over time. The course explains why welfare states emerged in the twentieth century and how welfare policies differ in different countries, the impact of labour market institutions, the redistributive implications of age, gender and ethnic differences, the role of competing economic and political ideologies, and the way inequality has been affected by structural changes to the global economy. The aim is to understand the striking differences in social cohesion and human development amongst the world's rich democracies.


This course is delivered through a combination of seminars and lectures totalling a minimum of 27.5 hours across Michaelmas Term. This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of recorded lectures, flipped lectures (online discussion of lecture materials), and in-person (or, if a School closure demands it, online) seminars. This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of the Michaelmas Term.

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.


Essay (100%, 5000 words) in the LT.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: European Institute

Total students 2019/20: Unavailable

Average class size 2019/20: Unavailable

Controlled access 2019/20: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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