Skip to main content

Unit information: Political Corruption in 2018/19

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Political Corruption
Unit code POLI30022
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Mircea Popa
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


Corruption is at the centre of the political debate in countries across the world. This unit aims to expose students to recent and highly influential literature on corruption from Politics and related disciplines. Some of the main questions being asked include: Why are some countries more corrupt than others? How can we measure corruption? What is the connection between corruption and related phenomena such as clientelism and rent-seeking? Is corruption bad for economic development? How can we control corruption?

In tackling these questions we will use a range of sources including recent academic papers, classic books in the field, and reliable journalistic accounts. Students will be expected to independently research corruption allegations and evidence from a country of their choosing (including the UK), and to connect this to the academic literature we discuss.

The unit aims are:

  • To familiarise students with the ongoing academic debates and findings on corruption
  • To develop students’ ability to perform a case study and to connect the findings with existing theoretical arguments
  • To prepare students for policy making or policy analysis in the area of corruption.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate understanding of the main theoretical puzzles regarding corruption and its effects on politics and economics
  • Critically engage with the literature on the causes and effects of corruption
  • Demonstrate ability to connect empirical evidence from a case study with arguments from the academic literature.

Teaching details

Lecture: 1 hour per week.

Seminar: 2 hours per week.

Assessment Details

1. 1000 word formative research proposal (0%)

2. 3000 word summative research report (100%)

Both assessments test all learning outcomes.

Reading and References

Rose-Ackerman, S. and Palifka, B.J., 2016. Corruption and Government: Causes, Consequences, and Reform. Cambridge University Press.

Hoffman, D., 2011. The Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia. PublicAffairs.

Acemoglu, D. and Robinson, J., 2012. Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty. Crown Business.

Treisman, D., 2000. The Causes of Corruption: A Cross-national Study. Journal of Public Economics, 76(3), pp.399-457.

Eggers, A.C. and Hainmueller, J., 2009. MPs For Sale? Returns to Office in Postwar British Politics. American Political Science Review, 103(04), pp.513-533.

Svensson, J., 2005. Eight Questions About Corruption. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 19(3), pp.19-42.