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2024/2025  BA-BPOLV1093U  The Philosophy and Economics of Inequality in the 21st Century

English Title
The Philosophy and Economics of Inequality in the 21st Century

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Bachelor
Duration One Quarter
Start time of the course First Quarter
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Study board
Study Board for BSc/MSc i International Business and Politics, BSc
Course coordinator
  • Yajna Govind - Department of Economics (ECON)
Main academic disciplines
  • Philosophy and ethics
  • Economics
Teaching methods
  • Blended learning
Last updated on 26-01-2024

Relevant links

Learning objectives
  • Discuss the political and ethical dimensions of inequality
  • Understand and be able to discuss the concept and different technical definitions of inequality (discussed in the course) from a philosophical and economic perspective
  • Critically assess different inequality measurements and know their limitations
  • Evaluate policies (discussed in the course) that aim to decrease inequality
The Philosophy and Economics of Inequality in the 21st Century:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Home assignment - written product
Individual or group exam Individual exam
Size of written product Max. 15 pages
Assignment type Project
Release of assignment The Assignment is released in Digital Exam (DE) at exam start
Duration 48 hours to prepare
Grading scale 7-point grading scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period Autumn
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
Course content, structure and pedagogical approach

“What is the origin of inequality among people, and is it authorized by natural law?”  - Essay prompt by the Academy of Dijon, 1754


What is inequality? How can we measure it? Is it morally justified?


Economists from Karl Marx to Simon Kuznets and Thomas Piketty as well as philosophers from Jean-Jacques Rousseau to John Rawls and Robert Nozick have all in various ways studied the mechanisms and legitimacy of inequality. Why are some incredibly wealthy while many are so poor? Can the current distribution of economic resources and political power be justified? As economic inequality is rising in most of the developed world, inequality has yet again resurfaced as one of the most important and contested topics of academic and political debate.


The aim of this course is to introduce the concept of inequality, i.e., what is inequality and why does it matter? Students will be introduced to the economic theories of inequality and its philosophical background. In the course we cover various definitions of inequality and discuss different methods of measuring inequality. We will look at both global and national/regional inequality, and discuss inequality along various dimensions, such as class, race, and gender. Finally, we address the ethical and political aspect of inequality: Can inequality be justified? The course also covers potential policies to address inequality, including a discussion of whether such interventions should actually take place.

Description of the teaching methods
The class activities will involve lectures, discussions, and problem-solving exercises.
Feedback during the teaching period
There will be a feedback activity (e.g., a quiz or a review session) approximately half way through the course. We also aim to give constant feedback to students in the form of Q and A in the classroom. We encourage students to ask questions and participate in class discussion. Furthermore, we encourage students to form study-groups and collaborate with other students to secure peer feedback on their work. Finally, students can take advantage of office hours, offered by full-time staff members.
Student workload
Lectures 38 hours
Preparation / exam 170 hours
Expected literature

Journal articles and selected book chapters. A finalized reading list will be published on Canvas three weeks before the course starts.

Last updated on 26-01-2024