Department of Political Science


POLS0037 Democratic Challenges and Innovations

Course Code: POLS0037

Course Tutor: Dr Alan Renwick (Department of Political Science)

Length: One Term (Autumn Term)

Teaching: 20 contact hours

Assessment: Two 2,000 word essays (40%/60%)

Credits: 15 credits, 4 (US), 7.5 (ECTS)

Module Level: L6 (Advanced)

comparative politics; democracy; representation; referendums; deliberation

About this course

This module is designed to help you engage with current debates around the perceived failures of contemporary democratic systems and the reforms that are sometimes proposed to address those failures.  It focuses on problems and reform proposals in ‘established’ democracies rather than in new or fragile democracies – though many of the discussions may well be relevant to the latter as well.  It is divided into two parts: the first focuses on some of the major (alleged) challenges facing contemporary democracies; the second turns to a range of the (proposed) solutions to these challenges.  The approach taken is comparative throughout: you are encouraged to engage critically with the many arguments and counterarguments that are made through both theoretical reflection and engagement with empirical evidence from across the democratic world.

By the end of the module, you should:

· have the knowledge and the analytical skills needed to allow you to evaluate claims about the health of democracy in ‘established’ democracies around the world today;

· have the knowledge and the analytical skills needed to allow you to evaluate claims about possible democratic innovations and whether these would strengthen or weaken democracy today;

· have the knowledge and understanding to debate contemporary politics in a way that is informed by normative theories, theories of comparative politics, and both historical and comparative evidence;

· have developed your general skills in analysing arguments conceptually, theoretically, and empirically, in expressing yourself orally and in writing, and in participating in group discussions.