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The University of Southampton

PAIR3033 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:

  • Knowledge and understanding of fundamental issues in democratic theory, including the meaning and justification of political equality and participation
  • The ability to 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

2 hours of lectures per week. All will be recorded and posted on Blackboard. Lectures will be delivered either face to face or online only depending upon University and Public Health England Guidance at the time. Total of 24 hours of lectures (2 hours per week X 12 weeks) per module. Weekly student participation in online discussion boards. 1 hour per week delivered asynchronously. (1 hour X 12 weeks)

Independent Study114
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Pateman, Carole (1970). Participation and Democratic Theory. 

Pitkin, Hanna (1967). The Concept of Representation. 

Lively, Jack (1975). Democracy. 

McGann, Anthony (2006). The Logic of Democracy: Reconciling Equality, Deliberation, and Minority Protection. 

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

Riker, William (1982). Liberalism Against Populism: A Confrontation between the Theory of Democracy and the Theory of Social Choice. 

Beitz, Charles (1990). Political Equality: An Essay in Democratic Theory. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Discussion board activity 25%
Research project 50%
Research proposal 25%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework assignment(s) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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