GV4E2      Half Unit
Capitalism and Democracy

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

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.

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'. Lohmann, ‘An Information Rationale for the Power of Special Interests’, McNamara, ‘Rational Fictions: Central Bank Independence and the Social Logic of Delegation’. 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.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Student performance results

(2017/18 - 2019/20 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 25.2
Merit 58.6
Pass 16.2
Fail 0

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 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 differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching 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 2020/21: 67

Average class size 2020/21: 13

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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