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Can Democracy Work? - POL00069I

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  • Department: Politics and International Relations
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Alfred Moore
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

This is a survey module in contemporary democratic theory. Each week it takes a challenge contemporary democratic societies and institutions face (e.g. populism; climate change; secession) and considers whether theoretically and practically democracy can cope with the challenge.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

This is a survey course in contemporary democratic theory. Contemporary democracies face many challenges, from the apathy of citizens to hyper-partisanship, secessionist pressures, ageing populations, climate change, increasing inequality and racial domination. Each week we will use a particular problem or challenge to ground a discussion of normative democratic theory. We will read key texts from a wide range of contemporary democratic theorists, from Danielle Allen to Lea Ypi, Iris Marion Young to Charles Mills. And we will explore many aspects of democratic politics, including elections, voting, protest, association, disagreement, participation, representation and revolution. By focusing our discussion on particular problems facing democracy today, we will challenge students to think about how -- or whether -- the theory and practice of democratic politics can cope with the challenges of the twenty-first century.

Module learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate detailed knowledge of debates in contemporary democratic theory (PLO1)

  • Critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of arguments presented in contemporary political theory (PLO2)

  • Present arguments and advanced ideas from the module in written work (PLO5)

  • Work independently to set goals and objectives in order to solve problems through gathering and analysis of relevant literatures (PLO4)

  • Work independently in light of the values of tolerance and inclusivity, and recognise the ethical and political implications of holding different theoretical positions (PLO6)



Special assessment rules




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; 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

Allen, Danielle S. 2006. Talking to strangers. anxieties of citizenship since brown v. board of education. University of Chicago Press.

Dryzek, John S., Bonnie Honig, and Anne Phillips. 2008. The Oxford handbook of political theory. Oxford University Press.

Habermas, Jürgen. 1994. Three Normative Models of Democracy. Constellations 1(1), 1-10.

Mills, Charles. 2014. The Racial Contract. Cornell University Press.

Rahman, K. Sabeel. 2018. Democracy Against Domination. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Whelan, Frederick G. 2019. Democracy in Theory and Practice. London: Routledge.

White, Jonathan, and Lea Ypi. 2016. The meaning of partisanship. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Young, Iris Marion. 2000. Inclusion and Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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.