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Knowledge & Democracy - POL00054H

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  • Department: Politics and International Relations
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Alfred Moore
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2023-24

Module aims

Plato?s early critique of democracy turned on claims about the ignorance of the people and the knowledge held by an elite. Versions of this critique have bedevilled democratic theory and practice up to the present day. In this course we will explore claims about the relationship between knowledge and the right to rule, ideas of what such knowledge consists in and how it is distributed, and how institutions can be designed to promote such knowledge. We will assess ideas of epistemic elitism as they appear in canonical thinkers ranging from Plato to John Stuart Mill; we will explore the problem of political ignorance as it has developed in political science in the twentieth century; we will look at the role and limits of meritocratic institutions in democratic systems; and we will discuss the recent ?epistemic? turn in democratic theory and explore ideas of popular wisdom, collective intelligence, and ?democratic reason?.

Module learning outcomes

By completing this module, students will:

  • Describe and interpret a range of concepts within modern theories of democracy;
  • Analyse and differentiate the democratic principles at work in a range of political institutions and practices;
  • Appraise and justify particular uses of democratic concepts.

This module will also equip students with a range of key transferable skills:

  • Verbal and written argumentation;
  • Interpretation of texts;
  • Critical appraisal of concepts.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3000 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3000 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

Students will receive written timely feedback on their formative assessment. They will also have the opportunity to discuss their feedback during the module tutor?s feedback and guidance hours.

Students will receive written feedback on their summative assessment no later than 25 working days after submission; and the module tutor will hold a specific session to discuss feedback, which students can also opt to attend. They will also have the opportunity to discuss their feedback during the module tutor?s regular feedback and guidance hours.

Indicative reading

Dahl, R. A. (1989). Democracy and Its Critics. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Mill, J. S. Considerations on Representative Government.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.