Capitalism, Democracy and Inequality: The Crisis of Market Liberalism in Wealthy Democracies

  • Summer schools
  • Department of Government
  • Application code SS-IR102
  • Starting 2022
  • Short course: Open
  • Location: Houghton Street, London

Democracy and capitalism have had a complex and often conflictual relationship, shown recently in political upheaval amid the lingering aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008. Market liberalism appears increasingly inadequate as a formula for managing tensions between capitalism’s necessary inequality and democracy’s characteristic demand for redistribution.

This course offers a comprehensive introduction to how these tensions have developed in the rich market economies of the world, especially North America and Europe. You will investigate why some are more unequal than others, and how they have responded to the economic and political crises of the early 21st century. Key areas of enquiry include the distribution of income and wealth, the politics of taxation, public spending and welfare, the role of voting and elections, the politics of money, banking and financial crisis, and the rise of populism and political instability.

By the end of this topical and engaging course you will have acquired a deeper understanding of the political, social, and economic forces that shape modern society. You will also have cultivated an ability to analyse events from different perspectives understanding their relationship to one another.

Session: Two
Dates: 11 July - 29 July 2022
Lecturers: Prof Jonathan Hopkin and Dr David Woodruff


Programme details

Key facts

Level: 100 level. Read more information on levels in our FAQs

Fees:  Please see Fees and payments

Lectures: 36 hours 

Classes: 18 hours

Assessment*: One examination and one essay

Typical credit**: 3-4 credits (US) 7.5 ECTS points (EU)

*Assessment is optional but may be required for credit by your home institution. Your home institution will be able to advise how you can meet their credit requirements.

For more information on exams and credit, read Teaching and assessment


There are no prerequisites for this course. However, students will acquire a solid understanding of the basics of monetary and fiscal policy. No background in economics is required. 

Key topics

  • Government and the Market in the Advanced Nations

  • Capital, Labour and Economic Growth

  • The Keynesian Model and the Politics of Demand

  • Central Banking and Democracy

  • The Politics and Economics of Market Bubbles and the Crisis of 2008

  • Reforming the Welfare State

  • The Rise of Inequality

  • The Politics and Economics of Market Bubbles

  • The Credit Crunch and the Politics of Austerity

  • Responses to Crisis: Capitalism versus Democracy?

Programme structure and assessment

This course is delivered as a combination of lectures, class discussions and readings. The highly interactive nature of the course requires students to actively participate and engage in the course material in order to get the most out of the class discussions.

The course is assessed through a written essay (50%) and a final examination (50%). To help students prepare for the final examination there is also a mid-session mock examination. This mock examination will not contribute to your final grade but will provide you with valuable feedback and test your understanding of the course content.

Further details will be provided at the beginning of the course.


Course outcomes

  • Understand key concepts and theories of comparative political economy

  • Apply comparative political economic theory to compare institutions, policies and outcomes across countries and over time, and how they affect growth and income inequality.

  • Acquire a solid understanding of the basics of monetary and fiscal policy.

Is this course right for you?

This course is suitable if you would like to deepen your understanding of the relationship between capitalism and democracy in order to analyse the political, economic and social landscape of the 21st century. It is especially suited if you are targeting a role in government, policy development, research or consulting.

Your department

LSE’s Department of Government is home to some of the most internationally-respected experts in politics and government, producing influential research that has a global impact on policy development. The Department ranked 5th in the world for Politics and International Studies in the 2020 QS World University Rankings.

With a strongly cosmopolitan character, alumni can be found in the world's leading political science departments, as well as in journalism, commerce, central and local government, and non-governmental organisations globally. A long-standing commitment to remaining at the cutting edge of developments in the field ensures that students within the Department are equipped with the necessary analytical skills to tackle the world’s most pressing problems.

Your faculty

Professor Jonathan Hopkin
Professor of Comparative Politics, Department of Government

Dr David Woodruff
Associate Professor of Comparative Politics, Department of Government

Reading materials

Esping-Andersen, Goesta (1990). Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism. Cambridge: Polity.

Hall, Peter and David Soskice (eds.) (2001). Varieties of Capitalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Glyn, Andrew (2006). Capitalism Unleashed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Crouch, Colin (2011). The Strange Non-Death of Neoliberalism. Cambridge: Polity.

Blyth, Mark (2013). Austerity. The History of a Dangerous Idea. New York: Oxford University Press.

Piketty, Thomas (2014). Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Cambridge MA: Belknapp

*A more detailed reading list will be supplied prior to the start of the programme

**Course content, faculty and dates may be subject to change without prior notice

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