Understanding inequality in (democratic) politics


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Studienivå (studiesyklus)




Mål og innhald

Democracy has long been a subject of study among social scientists, as democratic systems are seen to bring with them a number of advantages, not least an improvement in overall human wellbeing. In order for a regime to be truly democratic, policies should reflect citizen¿s preferences, and citizens should be considered political equals, i.e., they should have equal chances and opportunities to have a say in the decisions that govern them. In the past half-century, it has become clear that contemporary democracies do not adhere entirely to these requirements. For example, women are still underrepresented in many political areas; poorer citizens tend to be only represented when their preferences align with wealthy citizens; and many urban citizens have felt that they are excluded from politics. This course will deal with exactly that; political inequality and citizen representation in democracy, with a focus on established democracies.

The course will start with a brief overview of how democracy should¿normatively¿look in an ideal world, and offers a broad overview of some of the findings of political inequality. This inequality may be based on various dimensions, such as gender, income, education, and rurality. We follow up on this overview by exploring the potential sources for unequal representation. We may expect inequality in representation to originate from, for example, the idea that some people tend to be less involved in politics (political participation); the idea that it matters who the legislatures are and that there is a bias in that; the idea that the media reports news in a biased way¿or is used in ways that encourage bias; or the idea that people¿s preferences are simply not equally included in the programs of political parties, causing biases. The main objective of this course is to provide a broad overview of the field of political inequality, while also deepening understanding using state-of-the-art-research.


A student who has completed the course should have the following learning outcomes: 


The student

  • Has general knowledge about the main findings and arguments in the area of political representation and political equality
  • Has in-depth knowledge about the existence of various forms of political inequality
  • Has advanced knowledge of the literature on unequal representation and on a range of potential explanations for such inequality


The student

  • Has the ability to identify and develop a relevant (to the field) research question
  • Has improved their abilities to design and conduct an independent research project in political science
  • Has the ability to deal with complex research articles, and identify their relevance to both society and themes within comparative research
  • Has strengthened their various transferable skills including communication (oral and written), analytical skills, and methodological skills

General competence

The student

  • Has improved their critical thinking and develop skills for an analytical approach in studying and discussingvarious questions in political science
  • Is able to effectively find, process, summarize, compare, and communicate advanced and relevant academic literature on political inequality
  • Is able to develop a research design and plan

Krav til forkunnskapar


Tilrådde forkunnskapar




Krav til studierett

The course is oriented towards students who have been accepted into the department's master's program but is open to visiting students upon approval of student request.

Arbeids- og undervisningsformer

Seminars that can include short lectures, individual meetings, group discussions

Obligatorisk undervisningsaktivitet

  • Twice a 1-page assignment, that can later be revised and used in the final examination. These assignments will be a) a literature review, and b) the development of a research question. More specific guidelines will be provided during the course.
  • 1 (short) presentation

The obligatory assignments need to be approved, and have no time limit.


A research proposal of maximum 4000 words

(This implies a plan for research that includes a puzzle, a research question, literature review, theoretical perspectives, and a description of the data and methods that may be used to answer the research question. The idea with a research proposal is not to actually do the data gathering and analyses, but to write up a clear plan for it. One could potentially think about this assignment as either concrete training for the MA thesis, or even as an actual beginning of the MA thesis or other research project.)

Hjelpemiddel til eksamen





Assessment in teaching semester


Will be made available before the course begins


All courses are evaluated according to UiB's system for quality assurance of education


The Programme Committee is responsible for the content, structure and quality of the study programme and courses.  


Course coordinator and administrative contact person can be found on Mitt UiB.

Administrativt ansvarleg

The Department of Comparative Politics at the Faculty of Social Sciences has the administrative responsibility for the course and the study programme. 


  • Vurderingsordning: Research proposal

    05.04.2022, 14:00
    Digital eksamen