Topics in Economics and Politics

Ludwig List
Arts and Society, Cross-Disciplinary Strategies
2022W, scientific seminar (SEW), 2.0 ECTS, 1.0 semester hours, course number S04484



'Inequality in contemporary capitalism'


One of the most important topics in economics is economic inequality. Over the past 50 years, the gap between the poorest and the richest on our planet has been ever-widening. Poverty, but also wealth, endangers the cohesion of society. Concentration of wealth implies a concentration of power and the and the associated opportunities to undermine democratic institutions.

The past two years, marked by the COVID-outbreak and the war between Russia and Ukraine (amongst many other wars) are often subject of fears of inequality continuing to rise. But what exactly does inequality mean? What forms of inequality to we know about? How can we measure inequality, and what problems might arise when trying to do so? And what can we learn from the past if we want to combat inequality?



Course Content


This module represents part one of the course on topics in economics and politics, with this term's general topic being inequality.

While many different aspects of inequality will be discussed during this course, the main focus lies on inequality in income and wealth. As such, it offers an introduction to basic concepts commonly used to measure and conceptualise inequality. Students will get to know both historical positions as well as the state of the art in inequality economics research.

The focus of this course lies in

  • The challenges that inequality presents for individuals and society
  • A basic overview of the history of inequality in different parts of the world
  • The role of inequality in economics
  • The links of inequality with other problems in society

Learning goals

This course’s goal is to

  • Allow students to learn about inequality in a structured manner
  • Create awareness for different types of inequality in our society today

After finishing the course, the students should be able to

  • Assess problems of inequality using social and economic criteria
  • Point to the existing literature on inequality in income and wealth
  • Differentiate between different points of view regarding inequality, its' root causes and what can be done to combat it
  • Use international statistical databases in order to present data on inequality for different countries
  • Use the skills gained above in order to prepare their own arguments for future debates


Course structure

In general, the course design provides ample space for discussion with the goal of comparing different aspects of inequality and their relation with out society. Finally, it should motivate the students to elaborate proper arguments on their own and to gain experiences in the presentation of content and their own opinions. While the overall content of the course is clear, the structure can be modified to some extent depending on the students preferences and interests. 

Students are actively encouraged to read economics-focused newspapers and blogs like 'the economist' and 'financial times' to find inequality-related articles. These articles will then be used to start a discussion at the beginning of each class about the many different aspects of inequality.

The teacher will then present different aspects of inequality in five course blocks:

  • Block 1: Inequality in income and wealth - what is it and how can we measure it?
  • Block 2: Inequality and gender
  • Block 3: Inequality at the world level
  • Block 4: Inequality and the climate
  • Block 5: Inequality - how can we combat it?


Students will be given opportunity to read text passages, book chapters or reports on inequality. While the reading of these text is not mandytory (apart from those presenting the text), it is still strongly encouraged in order to be able to harness the most knowledge about inequality. These texts typically represent the state of the art reasearch on inequality and its many causes and effects.

Furthermore, students will organise in groups in order to prepare texts, present them to the other students and provide valuable inputs for the following debate. After a discussion of the presented texts, the teacher gives an introduction to the texts that the students are supposed to read during the next session.

Additionally, students are expected to hand in short reflections of the readings prior to class. These summaries need to include 2-3 questions regarding text passages that the students did not understand as well as 2-3 reflections that emerged during the reading of the texts.



Examination Modalities

Grades are given based on the students’ active participation as well as their presentation in groups. Participation consists of the students’ reflections (40 %), participation in class and a group presentation of one text (30% each).



// Students from other faculties or universities will receive a place on the course subject to room capacities.

// In case of another lockdown the classes will be held via Zoom, the students will be informed with the details via mail.

Key Words

inequality, economics, poverty, statistics, presentation


27 October 2022, 15:30–18:00 CDS Lecture Room
03 November 2022, 15:30–18:00 CDS Lecture Room
17 November 2022, 15:30–18:00 CDS Lecture Room
01 December 2022, 15:30–18:00 CDS Lecture Room
15 December 2022, 15:30–18:00 CDS Lecture Room
12 January 2023, 15:30–18:00 CDS Lecture Room
26 January 2023, 15:30–18:00 CDS Lecture Room

Course Enrolment

From 02 August 2022, 08:51 to 27 October 2022, 23:26
Via online registration

co-registration: possible

Cross-Disciplinary Strategies (Master): Study Areas: Study Area 3: Economics and Politics

Cross-Disciplinary Strategies (Master): Elective Field: only students without a bachelor's degree in CDS: from Study Areas 1-6

Cross-Disciplinary Strategies (Bachelor): Economy and Politics: Deepening / Application

Individual courses: possible