GV4E2      Half Unit
Capitalism and Democracy

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Jonathan Hopkin and Dr David Woodruff


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

Available as an outside option for students on other programmes with the teachers' consent. This course is capped at 3 groups.

The deadline for applications is 17:00 on Tuesday 29 September 2020. You will be informed of the outcome by 17:00 on Wednesday 30 September 2020.

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.


This course is delivered through a combination of seminars and lectures totalling a minimum of 31 and a half hours over the Lent and Summer Terms. This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of online and on-campus lectures and seminars. Online seminars, if required, will involve a mix of virtual meetings and other forms of online engagement.

There will be a reading week in week 6 of the LT.

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'.


Online assessment (100%) in the ST.

Student performance results

(2016/17 - 2018/19 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 14.7
Merit 65.5
Pass 19.8
Fail 0

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: 45

Average class size 2019/20: 15

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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