IR480      Half Unit
The Politics of Inequality and Development

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Victoria Paniagua


This course is available on the MSc in Global Politics, MSc in International Affairs (LSE and Peking University), MSc in International Political Economy, MSc in International Political Economy (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in International Political Economy (Research) and MSc in Theory and History of International Relations. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

All students are required to obtain permission from the Teacher Responsible by completing the online application form linked to course selection on LSE for You. Admission is not guaranteed.

This course has a limited number of places (it is controlled access) and demand is typically high.

Course content

This course examines the interaction between markets and states to understand the causes and consequences of development and economic inequality in the developing world and beyond. We will explore these topics in light of contemporary theoretical, substantive, and methodological debates within the fields of international and comparative political economy.

The course will examine the various forces that affect development, as well as exploring economic inequality as a consequence of economic development (or lack thereof). Forces we consider include the state, political institutions, socio-economic actors’ preferences and power, and social structure. We will further interrogate the political and economic foundations of inequality, its political implications, and, finally, the main policy tools available to curb economic inequality in the developing world and beyond.


This course is delivered through a combination of seminars and lectures totalling a minimum of 20 hours across Lent Term.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 2 pieces of coursework in the LT.

The 2 pieces of coursework will be reading response memos.

Indicative reading

Piketty, Thomas (2014). Capital in the 21st Century. Harvard University Press.

Boix, Carles (2015). Political order and inequality. Cambridge University Press.

Milanovic, Branko (2016). Global Inequality: A New Approach for the Age of Globalization. Harvard University Press.

Atkinson, Anthony (2015). Inequality: What Can be Done? Harvard University Press.

Frieden, Jeffry (1992). Debt, Development, and Democracy. Princeton University Press.

Gerschenkron, Alexander (1962). Economic Backwardness in Historical Perspective. Harvard University Press. 

Evans, Peter (1995). Embedded Autonomy: States and Industrial Transformation. Princeton University Press.


Presentation (10%) in the LT.
Take-home assessment (90%) in the ST.

Student performance results

(2018/19 - 2020/21 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 56.8
Merit 41.5
Pass 1.7
Fail 0

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2021/22: 46

Average class size 2021/22: 11

Controlled access 2021/22: Yes

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

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills