Department of Political Science


Democracy and Constitutional Design

Course Code


Course Tutor

Dr Sherrill Stroschein (Department of Political Science)


One 6,000 word essay

Credit Value


About this course

This course introduces students to the study of democracy and its alternatives, as understood in the academic field of Comparative Politics. It covers basic understandings of how political ideas and agents interact with institutions such as states and democratic rules. We also consider the institutions of non-democracies, and whether contemporary democracies are under threat. Key concepts such as constitutions and constitutional design, rights, and economics are examined in light of the tensions between democracies and non-democracies. Societal structures such as social capital provide the basis for an understanding of civil society and popular mobilization in the form of contentious politics. Finally, we consider transitions to and from democracy, as well as the types of mobilization that can produce revolutions. 

By the end of this course students will be familiar with the primary debates along the democracy – non-democracy spectrum in Comparative Politics. They will also gain some knowledge of tensions and compliments between economic and democratic principles. In addition to these thematic areas, students will be able to situate current problems of political change within a broader theoretical and comparative context, and will gain an understanding of how to critically evaluate academic theories and policy positions in these areas. Students will develop skills of critical reading, thinking, and writing though a combination of readings, lectures and discussions, and writing assignments. In addition, there will be some coverage of good academic writing practices. Students will also gain an applied understanding of the use of comparison and the evaluation of processes and discourse in comparative politics, as grounding for research on the dissertation or for future employment and study.

*This is a core module for students registered on the MSc Democracy and Comparative Politics programme and is not available as an optional module.