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Democracy and its Dilemmas (POLS30033)

Undergraduate level 3Points: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2019
Subject levelUndergraduate Level 3
Subject codePOLS30033
Semester 1
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

This subject will examine the history of theories of democracy with a particular focus on the persistent “dilemmas of democracy” in the 21st century. Beginning in the classical tradition, it will quickly shift to focus on the “constitutional settlement” of liberal democracy in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. However, the majority of the focus will be on the 20th and 21st century debates around Elite, Pluralist, Deliberative and Neo-republican theories of democracy. Throughout all this, the changing shape of persistent dilemmas will be primary. These include (but are not necessarily limited to): the problem of political ignorance, the tyranny of the majority, the problem of stability, and the problem of pluralism. However, the subject will also examine how these dilemmas have manifested in contemporary popular debates around political apathy, free speech and tolerance, cosmopolitanism, and sovereignty. In conclusion, the subject will consider possibilities of democratic renewal in recent theories of radical democracy.

Intended learning outcomes

On completion of this subject students should:

• Understand and compare the main theories of democracy and how these theories prescribe and limit democracy.
• Critically analyses the key dilemmas of democracy, both persistent and recent, and connect them to contemporary debates around political apathy, free speech and tolerance, cosmopolitanism, and sovereignty.
• Understand and recognize how concepts in democratic theory are used politically as well as ideologically in both domestic and international conflicts about the scope and nature of citizen participation in government, in particular with regard to the politics of inclusion and exclusion.
• Demonstrate an understanding of how to connect theoretical research with empirical case studies, including how to formulate and execute a comprehensive argument about democracy in the 21st century.
• Communicate effectively in oral and written formats.

Last updated: 26 June 2019