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BST200_1

Democratic theory

This is the study programme for 2019/2020. It is subject to change.


The aim of the course is to present, and throw light on, central topics and debates in democratic theory. What is a democracy? What are the main characteristics of democracy as compared to alternative non-democratic political systems? What are the main characteristics of liberal democracies? What is the normative basis of democracy? What values and standards should provide the basis for evaluations of existing democratic states? Should all adult citizens in a democracy have equal political rights - regardless of their political competence and their political aims? How should political and legal institutions be designed in constitutional democracies? What decision-making procedures should be used in order to make collectively binding decisions in a constitutional democracy? What should be the scope of majority rule? Should certain issues in a democracy be withdrawn from the immediate control of present majorities? How difficult should it be to amend constitutional laws that protect the political and civil rights of citizens? Should a constitutional democracy have a system of judicial review of legislation in order to protect constitutional rights?

Learning outcome

When the students have completed the course, they should have acquired knowledge, skills and competence in the following areas:
(1) Knowledge
  • The students should be able to set out central arguments for and against democracy in general, and different forms of democratic political systems in particular
  • The students should have acquired knowledge about central theories of democracy, and they should be able to consider how these theories have different implications with regard to the design of basic political and legal institutions
  • The students should be able to set out the main characteristics of liberal democracies and constitutional democracies

(2) Skills
  • The students are expected to be able to apply insights from democratic theory in order to critically evaluate alternative ways of designing political and legal institutions in democratic political systems

(3) Competence
  • The students are expected to use the knowledge and skills they have acquired in order to consider and discuss how political and legal institutions should be organised in modern constitutional democracies

Contents

The course will present, and engage the students in discussions about, central topics in democratic theory. What are the main characteristics of democracies in general, and liberal democracies in particular? How can a democratic political system be justified? What values and standards should provide the basis for critical normative evaluations of existing democratic states and their political institutions and decisions-making procedures? Should formal political processes in a democracy (i.e. its electoral system and decision procedures) treat every citizen equally? Does a democratic political system require that all adult citizens have equal political rights regardless of their political knowledge and their political aims? How should basic political and legal institutions be designed in modern constitutional democracies? The outlined topics raise a number of important problems or issues that play a central role in contemporary democratic theory: (1) Problems related to voter ignorance and irresponsibility. (2) The danger of the tyranny of the majority. (3) Constitutional restrictions on majority rule. (4) The legitimacy of a system of judicial review of legislation.

Required prerequisite knowledge

None.

Exam

Weight Duration Marks Aid
Home assignment1/17 daysA - FAll.

Coursework requirements

Seminarer
Two types of seminars will be arranged, and both are mandatory. (1) Ordinary seminars that address different central topics in the course. Those who fail to attend more than two seminars must write a paper in order to be allowed to take the exam. The length of the paper is 3 000 words. (2) Essay writing seminars. There will be two such seminars, and both are mandatory. Those who fail to attend both these seminars must write a paper in order to be allowed to take the exam. The length of the paper is 3 000 words.

Course teacher(s)

Course teacher
Erik Christensen
Course coordinator
Kristian Skagen Ekeli

Method of work

Lectures and seminars.

Open to

Sociology - Bachelor's Degree Programme
Political Science - Bachelor's Degree Programme
Admission to Single Courses at the Faculty of Social Sciences
Privatister

Literature

The mandatory course literature will consist of at least three books and a collection of articles.
* Brennan, Jason (2016): Against Democracy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
* Dahl, Robert A. (1989): Democracy and Its Critics. New Haven: Yale University Press.
* Schwartzberg, Melissa (2014): Counting the Many. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press.
The list of mandatory course literature is under revision, but will be ready when the course starts.


This is the study programme for 2019/2020. It is subject to change.

Sist oppdatert: 12.11.2019

History