Power and Democracy

Module description

Democracy means ‘rule by the people’. But who are the people? Who should be included as part of the demos? How can the people rule over themselves? Can they limit their own power? This module examines the idea of democracy and the meaning and nature of a range of democratic practices and institutions. It will consider the conditions under which power is exercised within a democratic regime. By surveying some influential texts in democratic theory, the module will provide foundational training in contemporary political theory for students of Politics and International Relations.

Full module specification

Module title:Power and Democracy
Module code:POL1019
Module level:1
Academic year:2016/7
Module lecturers:
  • Dr Andrew Schaap - Lecturer
Module credit:15
ECTS value:






Duration of module: Duration (weeks) - term 1:


Module aims

This module will introduce you to some key conceptual and normative debates in democratic theory. It aims to make you aware of the nature, limitations and possible applications of a range of different perspectives, conceptual approaches, and interpretations in democratic theory. For students interested in pursuing Politics and/or International Relations as a field of study, this is a useful introduction to core concepts in democratic theory.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. understand the nature of democratic politics;
  • 2. evaluate political phenomena in terms of normative criteria of democratic theory

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. assess the insightfulness of different interpretations of political texts and phenomena
  • 4. assimilate and analyse a range of sources in political theory;

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 5. develop critical thinking skills, particularly in relation to normative and conceptual arguments;
  • 6. work independently, within a limited time frame, and without access to external sources, to complete a specified task

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching activity1812 x 1.5 hour lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching activity1010 x 1 hour tutorials
Guided Independent study40Reading and preparation for tutorials
Guided Independent study82Preparation and completion of assessment tasks

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay plan1-2 pages1-6Verbal comments from tutor and peer-review in class

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay401500 words1-6Written comments
Examination601.5 hour1-6Cohort feedback/ completed marking template

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay (1500 words)1-6August/September assessment period
ExaminationExamination (1.5 hour)1-6August/September assessment period

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics: 

Hatred of Democracy and the Democratic ideal; 
Elitism and Populism; 
Representation and Participation; 
Deliberation and Dissent; 
Citizenship and Difference

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Michael Walzer (1981) ‘Philosophy and Democracy’, Political Theory 9(3): 379-399.

Joseph Schumpeter (1943) Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. London: Allen & Unwin, ch.20-22.

Margaret Canovan (1999) ‘Trust the People! Populism and the two Faces of Democracy’, Political Studies47: 2-16.

Carol Pateman (1970) Participation and Democratic Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ch.2.

Michael Saward (2014) ‘Shape-shifting representation’, American Political Science Review 108(4): 723-736.

Bruce Ackerman & James Fishkin (2002) ‘Deliberation Day’, The Journal of Political Philosophy10(2): 129-152.

Sheldon Wolin (1994) ‘Fugitive Democracy’, Constellations1(1): 11-25.

David Miller (1999) ‘Democracy’s Domain’, Philosophy and Public Affairs 37(3): 201-228.

Iris Marion Young (1989) ‘Polity and Group Difference: A Critique of the Ideal of Universal Citizenship’, Ethics99: 250-74.

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

ELE – http://vle.exeter.ac.uk/


Origin date


Last revision date