GV325      Half Unit
Topics in Political Economy

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Stephane Wolton


This course is available on the BA in Social Anthropology, BSc in History and Politics, BSc in International Social and Public Policy with Politics, BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics, BSc in Politics and Data Science, 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, BSc in Social Anthropology and BSc in Social Policy with Government. This course is available with permission 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 EC201 Microeconomic Principles I, 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 40 hours in the Michaelmas Term and 5 hours in the Summer Term, with a reading week in Week 6 of the MT. There will be a three-hour mock exam and a two-hour revision lecture in the ST.

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 practice 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.

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 (20%, duration: 2 hours) in the summer exam period.
Coursework (50%) in the LT.
Online assessment (30%) in the ST.

Online assessment duration: 7 days in the ST.

Student performance results

(2019/20 - 2021/22 combined)

Classification % of students
First 45
2:1 32.5
2:2 15
Third 2.5
Fail 5

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2021/22: 14

Average class size 2021/22: 15

Capped 2021/22: No

Lecture capture used 2021/22: Yes (MT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

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.

Personal development skills

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