SHE Level 4
SCQF Credit Points 20.00
ECTS Credit Points 10.00
Module Code MHL224382
Module Leader Ruth Lightbody
School Glasgow School for Business and Society
Subject Politics
  • A (September start)
  • B (January start)
  • C (May start)

Pre-Requisite Knowledge

Normally, the successful completion of a level 3 social sciences module or equivalent.

Summary of Content

Is democracy an illusion? Does democracy work? Who holds the power? This research-led module aims to explore these questions and is designed to provide students with an in-depth understanding of democratic theory. Students will critically consider some of the most engaging contemporary approaches to democratic theory and assess the possibility of reinvigorating democracy in response to the challenges of a world characterized by the increasing globalization and internationalisation of politics, economics and culture. Beginning with an introduction to political thought, the module moves on to assessing the key concepts over which different theories of democracy conflict. Democratic theories included are representative democracy, elitism, participatory democracy, social democracy, deliberative democracy and cosmopolitan democracy. Throughout the module we will also gain important insights from various political perspectives including feminist theory and environmental theory. Summary of how PRME-related issues / topics are covered in this module: This module encourages students to examine concepts that are of direct relevance to good governance, participation and democratic dialogue. It also examines the link between democracy and environmental sustainability.


LECTURE TOPIC SEMINAR TOPIC WEEK 1 Classical Democracy WEEK 2 Representative Democracy Introduction and Athenian democracy WEEK 3 Social Democracy Critiquing representative democracy WEEK 4 Pluralist Democracy Social democracy and Marxism WEEK 5 The Elitist Critique of Democracy Who holds the power? Competing political theories WEEK 6 Direct Democracy Direct democracy and participation WEEK 7 Deliberative Democracy Deliberative democracy and equality WEEK 8 Associational Democracy Associational democracy and the 'big society' WEEK 9 Agonistic Democracy Agonism and conflict politics WEEK 10 Cosmopolitan Democracy Global governance and the future of democracy WEEK 11 The future of democracy Course Overview

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:1. Outline, evaluate and critically analyse a contemporary democratic theory, and its principal concepts, in-depth, and its relationship to other democratic theories and contemporary problems.2. Apply conceptual tools to understand and analyse contemporary democratic theories and how they operate in practice.3. Demonstrate an understanding of the differences between the varying democratic theories.4. Demonstrate appropriate communicative and transferable skills including making effective use of library and electronic resources to acquire relevant information, engaging in seminar discussion, and provision of written, reasoned and co-ordinated arguments.

Teaching / Learning Strategy

This module will be delivered via a combination of lectures, seminars and group tasks designed to enhance learning and understanding. The module will be centred round a comprehensive lecture programme. Seminars are then used to explore topics in greater depth, and to harness the epistemic value of structured deliberative communication. In order to ensure that students are adequately prepared for seminars they will be expected to form 'study groups'. Within these groups they will take responsibility for leading one seminar topic. They will meet for independent study sessions to prepare questions for the seminar and act as discussant leaders during the class. All students will be required to consult set readings and prepare to stay informed on current political events. Coursework will also be submitted and marked electronically via Grademark. GSBS will continue to use the advancement of GCU Learn as a blended learning tool through its teaching and learning as well as through engagement with students. GSBS will ensure that all modules are GCU Learn enabled and with the support of the Learning Technologists at the cutting edge of development of online materials. Academic staff and the Learning Technologists will continue to work together to develop and operate all modules on GCULearn to ensure student support and information sharing. Students are provided with formative and summative feedback via a variety of mechanisms. Feedback on coursework is provided within 3 working weeks of submission

Indicative Reading

Books: Axtmann, R., (ed) (2003), Understanding Democratic Politics, London: Sage Publications Company. Blaug, R and Schwarzmantel, J. (eds.) (2001), Democracy: A Reader, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Boucher, D. and Kelly, P. (eds) (2009), Political Thinkers: From Socrates to the Present, 2 nd edition, Oxford: Oxford Uni Press Dahl, R. (1989), Democracy and its Critics, Yale: Yale University Press. Dryzek, J.S. and Dunleavy, P. (2009), Theories of the Democratic State, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. Elstub, S. and McLaverty, P. (2014), Deliberative Democracy: Issues and Cases, Edinburgh: Edinburgh Uni Press. Goodin, R.E. (2012), Innovating Democracy: Democratic Theory and Practice After the Deliberative Turn, Oxford: Oxford University Press Held, D. (2006), Models of Democracy, 3 rd edition, Cambridge: Polity Press. Held, D. (1995), Democracy and the Global Order: From the Modern State to Cosmopolitan Governance, Cambridge: Polity Press. Mouffe, C. (2013), Agonistics, Thinking the World Politically, London: Verso Mutz, D.A. (2006), Hearing the Other Side: Deliberative versus Participatory Democracy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Nef. J and Reiter, B. (2009), The Democratic Challenge: Rethinking Democracy and Democratization, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. Weale, A. (2007), Democracy, 2 nd edition, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. Saward, M. (2003) Democracy, Cambridge: Polity Press. Smith, G. (2009), Democratic Innovations: Designing Institutions for Citizen Participation, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. -567 Online sources: Various journals, including Political Theory, Politics and Society and Political Studies.

Transferrable Skills

The capacity to execute set tasks and in doing so manage time and personal organisation effectively; Written and oral communication skills; Skills in critical thinking and analysis; The effective use of Information Technology

Module Structure

Activity Total Hours
Independent learning 109.00
Lectures 11.00
Assessment 60.00
Seminars 20.00

Assessment Methods

Component Duration Weighting Threshold Description
CW1 Course Work 01 n/a 50.00 n/a Essay
CW2 Course Work 02 n/a 50.00 n/a Case Study