EU4A4      Half Unit
The Politics of Inequality and Redistribution

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Jonathan Hopkin


This course is available on the MSc in European and International Public Policy, MSc in European and International Public Policy (LSE and Bocconi), MSc in European and International Public Policy (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in Inequalities and Social Science, MSc in Political Economy of Europe, MSc in Political Economy of Europe (LSE and Fudan) , MSc in Political Economy of Europe (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in Political Science (Conflict Studies and Comparative Politics), MSc in Political Science (Global Politics), MSc in Political Science (Political Science and Political Economy), MSc in Public Administration and Government (LSE and Peking University) and MSc in Public Policy and Administration. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course has a limited number of places (it is controlled access) and demand is typically very high. Priority is given to students from the European Institute, so students from outside this programme may not get a place.

Course content

This course provides an overview of the politics of inequality in the rich democracies. The objective is to explain why the distribution of wealth, income and opportunities differs so much between democratic countries with similar levels of economic development, particularly in Europe. The course draws largely on political science, although perspectives from other disciplines - such as economics and social policy - are brought in as appropriate. The focus is on understanding how institutions and policies redistribute resources in different ways across countries and over time. The course explains why welfare states emerged in the twentieth century and how welfare policies differ in different countries, the impact of labour market institutions, the redistributive implications of age, gender and ethnic differences, the role of competing economic and political ideologies, and the way inequality has been affected by structural changes to the global economy. The aim is to understand the striking differences in social cohesion and human development amongst the world's rich democracies.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures and seminars totalling a minimum of 30 hours across Autumn Term. This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of Autumn Term.

Formative coursework

All students are expected to submit one non-assessed essay.

Indicative reading

  • Esping-Andersen, Gosta (1990), The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism. Cambridge: Polity Press
  • Piketty, Thomas (2014), Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge: Belknapp
  • Piketty, Thomas (2020), Capital and Ideology. Cambridge: Belknapp


Essay (100%, 5000 words) in the WT.

Key facts

Department: European Institute

Total students 2022/23: 84

Average class size 2022/23: 17

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

Lecture capture used 2022/23: 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
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Commercial awareness