Democratic Political Institutions
Course Code: PUBLG058
Course Tutor: Dr Sherrill Stroschein (Department of Political Science)
Assessment: 2,000 word essay (60%) and one 1 hour exam (40%)
Credit Value: 15
About this course
This course examines democratic institutions from both theoretical and empirical perspectives. Democracies throughout the globe are constituted of different rules for governing and representation, and the course will cover these different options as well as their advantages and disadvantages for particular contexts. The course first examines basic constitutional structures for the allocation of powers between executives and legislatures and the conduct of elections. Throughout the course, we evaluate the origins and maintenance of institutions in terms of two different theoretical views on human behaviour: the individualist economic and the relational sociological perspectives. Other examples of institutions covered include study federalism, devolution, and autonomy. The course then turns to various ways of incorporating citizen interests through representative structures, addressing parties and party systems as well as alternative forms of participation such as such as direct democracy, deliberative democracy, and corporatism. We also address the functioning of bureaucracies, accountability, corruption, and the role of judiciaries in politics. Finally, the course concludes with an examination of challenges to democracy arising from ethnic politics, local authoritarians, and imperatives of management.
By the end of this course, students will be able to critically evaluate different options for democratic institutions across different country contexts. They will also be able to assess both academic and policy arguments in favour of various institutions in terms of their potential biases toward individualist or sociological assumptions about human behaviour. Finally, students will develop skills of critical reading, thinking, and writing though a combination of readings, lectures and discussions, writing assignments, and an exam.