Democratic Political Institutions
Dr Sherrill Stroschein (Department of Political Science)
3,000 word essay - 100%
About this course
This course begins by setting out two approaches to human behaviour: the individualist, economic view, and the sociological, relational view. These two approaches provide two different understandings of how institutions structure social behaviour. The remainder of the course considers different institutions in democracy within these different motivational perspectives. The allocation of powers and institutions in democracies is outlined in terms of the relation between executives and legislatures, as well as in terms of federalism and devolution. Various options for electoral systems and their implications are also considered. 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. Some of these alternative forms include direct democracy, deliberative democracy, and corporatism, as well as media and information, leadership, and activism. We then examine the role of the rule of law and judiciaries, as well as bureaucratic rules. Finally, the course considers potential challenges to democracy and individual rights, in the form of corruption, hierarchies, and surveillance.
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, and writing assignments.