GV325      Half Unit
Topics in Political Economy

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Stephane Wolton


This course is available on the BSc in Government, BSc in Government and Economics, BSc in Government and History, BSc in International Social and Public Policy with Politics, BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics, BSc in Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics and History, BSc in Politics and International Relations, BSc in Politics and Philosophy, BSc in Psychological and Behavioural Science and BSc in Social Policy with Government. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.


Students are expected to have taken GV225 Public Choice and Politics, or equivalent, in a previous year. An introductory knowledge of economics and econometrics would be useful.

Course content

This course provides an overview of recent research in political economy. The focus will be on the applications of game theoretical and empirical approaches to the understanding of contemporary political issues. During the lectures, we will cover some seminal and some most recent models to think critically about the topics studied. In addition, we will go over papers testing or related to the theories we cover. Students will learn to assess critically the usefulness and limitations of theories and empirics alike. As such, this course allows students to understand how the tools they acquired in GV225 – Public Choice (or equivalent course) and GV249 – Research Design (or equivalent course) can be combined to study important political questions.

Themes covered change every year as a function of current debates in the scholarly community and of pressing problems in the world at large. In recent years, the topics studied in the course have included, among others, populism, media and democracy, autocratic politics, terrorism. Questions covered during the lectures have included the sources of populists’ success, the effect of biased media on political outcomes, the role of violence in securing autocratic regimes, or the evaluation of counter-terrorist policies, among many others.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totalling a minimum of 42 hours across the Lent and Summer Terms, with a reading week in Week 6 of the LT. There will be a two-hour mock exam and a two-hour revision lecture (either on-campus or online) in the ST. This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of online and on-campus lectures and classes. 

Formative coursework

Students will complete one problem set to further their understanding of the concepts covered in the course and prepare for the coursework. There will also be a timed exam in ST Week 1 to allow practise on problem sets solving under exam conditions.

Indicative reading

Canes-Wrone, Brandice, Michael C. Herron, and Kenneth W. Shotts. 2001. ``Leadership and pandering: A theory of executive policymaking." American Journal of Political Science 45(3): 532-550.

Gentzkow, Matthew, and Jesse M. Shapiro. 2006. "Media Bias and Reputation." Journal of Political Economy 114(2): 280-316.

Most of the reading is from journal articles; a complete list will be supplied at the start of the term. A useful overview of political economy topics in democracy is: T Besley, Principled Agents? Selection and Incentives in Politics, Oxford University Press, 2005.


Exam (50%, duration: 2 hours and 45 minutes, reading time: 15 minutes) in the summer exam period.
Coursework (50%) 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: Government

Total students 2019/20: 5

Average class size 2019/20: 5

Capped 2019/20: Yes (15)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills