Syllabus for The Problems of Democracy

Demokratins problem

A revised version of the syllabus is available.


  • 7.5 credits
  • Course code: 2SK078
  • Education cycle: First cycle
  • Main field(s) of study and in-depth level: Political Science G1F
  • Grading system: Fail (U), Pass (G), Pass with distinction (VG)
  • Established: 2009-05-07
  • Established by: The Board of the Department of Government
  • Applies from: week 36, 2009
  • Entry requirements: Political Science A or corresponding knowledge.
  • Responsible department: Department of Government

Learning outcomes

The course introduces some fundamental problems of democracy from a political science perspective. The aim is to equip students with the ability to independently analyse the central theoretical and empirical questions regarding democratic government. The course builds on themes introduced during Political Science A, within the fields of Political Theory and Comparative Politics.
The ambition is to equip students with the ability to discuss ideas about democracy as well as empirical research at a fairly advanced level. In practice, this means that the students - aided by the course topics described below - make the leap from arguing from a limited and personal point of view, to constructing more general, systematic and well-founded arguments.

More precisely, after completing the course the students are expected to:

• be able to discuss and compare various conceptions of democracy.
• be able to describe and evaluate the historically most important arguments for and against democracy.
• know, and be able to employ and critically review some of the most common explanations of democratisation.
• know how democracy in general, and its constitutional structure in particular, affects various political and economic outcomes.
• be able to argue for or against ideas and theses in a systematic and well-founded manner, orally as well as in writing.


The course consists of three parts:
The first part deals with normative democratic theory. It covers conceptual issues concerning the meaning of democracy, normative questions about the justification of democracy, and the problems and solutions that have been offered within different traditions in democratic theory. We cover issues such as:
What are the main problems within democratic theory? What solutions have been suggested?
How do we define democracy? What is good about democracy? What is the significance of granting various interests and groups political representation?

The second part of the course deals mainly with empirical questions concerning democracy’s development, spread, and causes: How should we describe the spread of democracy in time and space? What explains why some states are democracies while others are not? What are the preconditions for global democracy?

The third part of the course deals with the political and economic consequences of democracy. The constitutional design of democracies is emphasised: Does democracy matter for peace and welfare? What impact does constitutional design have on political and economic outcomes, such as party systems, political participation, the size of the public sector and corruption?


This course consists of lectures are and seminars. Attendance at all seminars is mandatory, while attendance at lectures is voluntary. The course is divided into three parts. Course lectures aim to introduce the main points covered in each part. The seminars aim to develop the students’ analytical skills through discussion in smaller groups. Before each seminar, all students will be required to prepare answers to a set of questions, individually and/or in groups. These prepared answers will be discussed during the seminars. This way, the seminars should provide opportunities for the students to continuously reflect on the content of the course, and work together to highlight the practical importance of theoretical ideas that are introduced throughout the course.


The course ends with an exam, which serves both as basis for grading, and an opportunity for the student to rehearse the content of the course.
The grading system is VG Pass with distinction’, G Pass’ and U Fail’.

To pass’ the class, the student is required to
-participate actively in the seminars
-pass’ the final exam

Course level in relation to degree requirements

This sub-course is intended to develop the students’ ability to read and analyse -- both orally and in writing -- political science texts. The course encourages students to reflect on the requirements for participation in a scientific discussion. Special attention is thereby given to the ability of reporting the ideas of others in an analytical and concise way, the need for concept formation in the identification and comparison of different ideas, and the importance of dealing with relevant objections when attempting to support one's own argument.

Syllabus Revisions

Reading list

Reading list

Applies from: week 36, 2009