PIR-30150 - Contemporary Democratic Theory
Coordinator: Marit Hammond Room: CBB2.010 Tel: +44 1782 7 33214
Lecture Time: See Timetable...
Level: Level 6
Credits: 15
Study Hours: 150
School Office:

Programme/Approved Electives for 2024/25


Available as a Free Standing Elective






Barred Combinations


Description for 2024/25

Normative democratic theory - thinking about what 'democracy' really ought to be understood to mean, and what this implies for our current political practice - is one of the most vibrant fields of contemporary scholarship in political theory. In current day-to-day politics, the centrality of democracy as the basis of political legitimacy is widely taken for granted, yet within the academic discussion highly divergent interpretations and models abound. This module engages with these ongoing debates by (1) revisiting the foundations and values behind the concept of democracy; (2) critically examining the main contemporary theories of democracy; and (3) reflecting on the role of democratic theory between given social realities and abstract normative ideals. In addition, the module explicitly thematises and teaches methodological approaches to normative democratic theory, equipping students with the skills, confidence and understanding to successfully engage in debates in normative political theory both verbally and in writing.

- To familiarise students with the concept of democracy and the evolution of its meaning and practice over time;
- To provide students with a thorough grounding in both long-standing and more recent debates in normative democratic theory;
- To instigate reflection and discussion on the methods of normative political theory;
- To enable students to apply methods and techniques in normative political theory to critically reflect on, and contribute to, key debates on the concept of democracy.

Talis Aspire Reading List
Any reading lists will be provided by the start of the course.

Intended Learning Outcomes

demonstrate systematic knowledge on the key interpretations, models and normative theories of democracy: 1,2
critically assess and discuss scholarship in normative democratic theory: 1,2
link normative scholarship on democracy to evaluations of existing social realities and political practice: 1,2
develop effective and critical argumentation on debates in political theory in written essays: 1,2
approach their own contributions to debates and research in normative political theory in a methodologically grounded manner: 1,2
engage critically in debates on the meaning, norms, and ideals of democracy, and their implications for political practice: 1,2

Study hours

- 10 hours lectures
- 10 hours tutorials
- 40 hours preparation for lectures and tutorials
- 45 hours researching and writing the reading responses
- 45 hours researching and writing the essay

School Rules


Description of Module Assessment

1: Reading Assessment weighted 40%
Reading responses
Students will select two readings from the compulsory or extended reading lists for two different weeks leading up to the assessment. On each reading, they will write a brief summary of the author's argument plus a critical response to it, drawing on further literature, in up to 500 words per reading (i.e. 1,000 word assignment in total).

2: Essay weighted 60%
2000 word essay
An argumentative essay of 2,000 words, to be chosen from a pre-given list of questions. Due at the end of the teaching term. The essay must include an explanatory section, based on which students' understanding of the theories will be assessed, and an argumentation section, based on which their ability to develop an argument in normative political theory will be assessed. Students will be given guidance on how to write the essay during the tutorials leading up to the deadline.