POL1047 : Power, Participation and Democracy: Comparative Perspectives

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


The aim of this module is to provide students with an understanding of how key political institutions and political processes operate in modern democracies. It does so by posing broad and important questions such as 'How is political power distributed between institutions and actors within a political system?’, ‘What factors determine the extent and effectiveness of political participation?’ and ‘How, and to what extent, are democratic ideals realised in real-world political systems?’ The answers to these questions will be discovered by taking a comparative approach which will draw upon a range of examples from a number of national political systems, including for instance the UK, the United States, France, Italy, Germany and Russia and others. The module provides an accessible and stimulating foundation for further study in Politics (no previous study of Politics is necessary) and it is also designed as a stand-alone introduction for those students interested in taking Politics as an outside option.

Outline Of Syllabus


1.       Introduction to the module
2.       Why compare?
3.       Power and Democracy (part 1)
4.       Power and Democracy (part 2)
5.       Organising Democracy: The Constitutional Framework (part 1)
6.       Organising Democracy: The Constitutional Framework (part 2)
7.       Leading the Polity: Presidents and Prime Ministers (part 1)
8.       Leading the Polity: Presidents and Prime Ministers (part 2)
9.       Decline or Change? The Role of Legislatures (part 1)
10.       Decline or Change? The Role of Legislatures (part 2)
11.       Political Parties: Fit for Purpose? (part 1)
12.       Political Parties: Fit for Purpose? (part 2)
13.       Free and Fair? Elections in Modern Democracies (part 1)
14.       Free and Fair? Elections in Modern Democracies (part 2)
15.       Political Participation I: The Mobilization of Citizens "In" and "Out" of Politics.
16.       Political Participation II: Protest, Checkbook Participation and Social Capital.
17.       Interest Group Politics I: Why do democratically elected governments listen to unelected interest groups?
18.       Interest Group Politics II: Do interest groups enhance or undermine democracy?
19.       Multi-level Politics: Above and Below the Nation State (part 1)
20.       Multi-level Politics: Above and Below the Nation State (part 2)
21.       Conclusion: Do Political Systems Make a Difference?
22.       Revision

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture221:0022:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion1102:00102:00Prep & completion of essay; revision for mock & final exam
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading160:0060:006hrs prep for each seminar
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical12:002:00A 1.5hr mock examination held in teaching wk 11
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching101:0010:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery41:004:004x1hr surgery to address stud queries/prepare for essay & feedback
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The lectures will introduce students to the key information, concepts and debates that will provide the basis for self-directed study and seminar discussion. These lectures will draw upon a range of political systems to provide relevant examples.

The seminars will provide an environment in which students can explore and deepen their understanding of the issues raised in lectures and readings through discussion in a small group context with their peers, via the exploration of case studies and through asking questions. The seminars will also provide the context in which students will develop many of the skills outcomes associated with the module. They will be central to the development of critical thinking and data synthesis skills. The seminars, with their requirement for advance preparation, will promote self-management skills while the in-seminar discussions will provide opportunities to develop and enhance interaction skills.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination901A50N/A
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M401500 words
Practical/lab report1M10Seminar participation
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The 1500 word essay will provide students with an opportunity to explore one of the topics in greater depth. It will assess the student’s ability to place, synthesise and evaluate the material gained from lectures, seminars with reading undertaken as part of independent study.

The unseen examination will assess students understanding across the broader curriculum. Students will be required to answer examination questions on different topics to those addressed by their 2000 word essays.

The seminar participation will assess the quality of students’ contributions to group discussions.

Reading Lists