Introduction to Comparative Political Economy


Timo Seidl


April 1, 2020

Course Description

Comparative Political Economy (CPE) is the comparative study of how politics shapes, constrains, and supports the (capitalist) economy. Comparative political economists try to understand how interest groups, political parties, institutional structures and ideas affect i) the creation and distribution of wealth and ii) the relationship between the economy and the rest of society. They look, among many other things, at how labor and financial markets are organized, how education and welfare systems are set up, how trade unions and employer organizations interact, how taxes are levied or not, how macroeconomic paradigms rise and fall, how families are supported or left alone, or how governments promote or regulate industries. And they look at how this affects levels of productivity, income and wealth inequality, work time, (un-)employment levels, market concentration, pollution, mobility, gender equality, consumer safety, social protection, happiness, or fertility. This course introduces students to some of the main theories that try to explain why regions, countries and continents differ in these regards, and when and how such varieties persist. While the focus will be on advanced capitalist democracies, we will also venture into the comparative political economy of developing countries.