20531 - COMPARATIVE POLITICS AND DEMOCRATIC THEORY
Course taught in English
Go to class group/s: 31
Lezioni della classe erogate in presenza
Democracy is the most common form of government in the world today. The idea of people choosing their government freely has a normative appeal. Moreover, life standards in democratic countries are on average better than in autocracies. However, democracy is not a perfect system and democratic countries come in various institutional forms. A badly-functioning democracy may undermine people’s confidence in the system and raise the risk of authoritarianism. For this reason, it is important to understand the conditions under which a democracy functions better.
This course presents a broad, in-depth, and up-to-date overview of the trends in contemporary democratic theory and the results of the comparative study of politics. The first section reviews contemporary views on democracy ranging from elite selection to collective wisdom. In subsequent sections we focuses on particular institutional arrangements and challenges to policy-making. The course is organized in 7 sections:
- Contemporary democratic theory.
- Regime transitions and varieties of non-democratic systems.
- Elections and electoral systems.
- Redistribution and the welfare state.
- Special interests and corruption.
- Checks on the executive branch and federalism.
- Religious and ethnic cleavages in democratic systems.
- Describe the main institutional differences among democratic systems.
- Recognize how institutions shape politicians’ behavior and lead to particular outcomes.
- Explain similarities and differences among democracies in terms of how they operate.
- Apply the insights presented during the course to identify the sources of problems facing democracies today.
- Evaluate the merits and drawbacks of solutions to contemporary problems facing democracies.
- Face-to-face lectures
Lectures are structured according to the standard format: the instructor presents and elaborates on the material contained in the required readings, which the students have read before class, so as to enhance in-class discussions and students’ participation.
- Attendance: some of the assigned readings feature a high degree of sophistication in terms of methods of analysis. Therefore, students’ attendance is strongly recommended. In fact, although no formal prerequisites are required, the lectures provide students some necessary (yet informal) background that help them gain a better understanding of those readings that include a technical component. Attendance is measured by the specific app available to all students. To qualify as an attending student and be allowed to take the midterm exam, an attendance rate equal to or higher than 75% must be reported.
With the purpose of measuring the acquisition of the above-mentioned learning outcomes, the student assessment is based on two main components, a partial written exam and a final written exam, each making up 50% of the final grade, and both based on a mix of multiple-choice and open questions.
- Multiple choice questions aim to test the students’ knowledge of the fundamental concepts about different democratic institutions and problems facing democratic systems.
- Open-ended questions aim to evaluate the students’ ability to describe the links between democratic institutions, politicians’ incentives and policy outcomes. These questions also test students’ ability to describe institutional variety among democracies using examples from different countries. Lastly, open-ended questions evaluate students’ ability to debate the merits and drawbacks of solutions to problems facing democracies.
The partial exam focuses on the readings covered in the first three sections of the course, which mainly survey democratic theory and electoral institutions. The final written exam covers the readings from sections 4-7, which focus on the questions of redistribution, influence of special interests, checks on the executive and non-economic cleavages in democracies.
Written general exam, (100% of the finale grade) based on a mix of multiple-choice and open questions, which aims to assess the student’s ability to describe the main theoretical and empirical findings contained in the readings covered over the course of the semester.
The required readings for this course are scientific articles and book chapters that represent the key and/or state of the art contributions to the different topics analyzed. A complete list of the required and suggested reading are provided at the beginning of the course and are available on Bboard.