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The University of Southampton

PAIR2026 Democratic Theory

Module Overview

Most states claim to be democratic. This module looks at the theory of democracy, including foundational questions about political inclusion, participation, and equality. As a result, students will develop a greater understanding of what democracy requires and why we might value it, an understanding that will enable them to reflect critically on claims about democracy.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Fundamental issues in democratic theory, including the meaning and justification of political equality and participation
  • Evaluate both proposed democratic ideals and the extent to which certain institutions realise them


The module will consist of five main topics (not necessarily in this order): 1) Inclusions and Exclusion - Who constitutes the ‘demos’? What justifies broad inclusion? Is it justifiable to exclude certain groups, such as children, the elderly, or felons? 2) Political Participation - How should ordinary citizens participate (e.g. only by voting or through deliberation)? Is there a duty to participate? Should it be mandatory? Should participants aim at ‘the common good’ or their own interests? 3) Representation - Is representative democracy preferable to direct democracy? How should representatives behave (e.g. as trustees or delegates)? How should citizens be represented (e.g. in geographical constituencies or via PR)? Do minority groups need special representation and, if so, how is this possible? 4) Political Equality (and Inequality) - What, if anything, justifies political equality? What are the arguments for giving some more power than others (e.g. differential competence or stakes)? What are the implications of equality? 5) Decision Rules - How should decisions be reached? How can we identify ‘the will of the majority’? Should the majority be restricted, e.g. by constitutional rights? Are there alternative procedures that are fairer to minorities?

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

There will be 10 lectures and 10 seminars.

Independent Study150
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Beitz, Charles (2009). The Frontiers of Democracy: The Right to Vote and its Limits. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2500 words) 50%
Essay  (2500 words) 50%
Essay/briefing plans %


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework assignment(s)  (3000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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