Course syllabus


arts-logo.pngSEMESTER 2, 2017

POLITICS 314: Democracy in Theory and Practice

Course Description

This course explores democratic theory. We look at different ways of thinking about the actual working of democracies, explore challenges which democratic theory faces and think about how it might respond to these challenges. Among others, specific topics include referenda, deliberation, citizenship, and political representation (including the question of Māori representation).

Combining sophisticated theory with the material essential for basic understanding this course should be of interest to any student curious about exploring the political world we live in. In particular, it should appeal (in no particular order) to students of political or social thought, indigenous studies, international relations theory, philosophy and jurisprudence.

Teaching Staff

Lecturer: Steve Winter <>
Tutor: Jordan Hanford <>

Class representative: Justin Alsleben

Class representative: Alice Jones


Course delivery format

2 hours of lectures and 1 hour of ‘lectorial’ run by the lectuter.

Lectures will emphasize student participation, building class discussion into the learning process.

(Timetable and room details can be viewed on Student Services Online)

Course Objectives/learning outcomes

  1. Gain knowledge of primary currents in contemporary democratic theory.
  2. Develop critical perspectives on that theory
  3. Develop skills in:
    1. Constructing arguments
    2. Analytical thinking and writing.
  4. Learn how to apply these to contemporary politics

Course Structure

This course comprises a series of twenty-four lectures.
In addition, there is a weekly discussion hour, the first of which is scheduled for Friday of the Second Week.

There will be a final exam.

The Course is subdivided into 8 'modules', each comprised of 1 or more lectures with accompanying readings. Click on the links below to access these.

1 Module -  Introduction

2 Module -  Rousseau

3 Module - We the people

4 Module - Representation

5 Module - Liberal Instrumentalism

6 Module - Deliberation

7 Module - Elections and Referendums

8 Module - At the limits of democracy

Discussion Hour

Material for the discussion hour can be found here.

How to Locate Readings:

All readings are available through the university’s library system. The staff at the library will be happy to assist you.

With respect to research outside the suggested readings, librarians are available to provide expert assistance.

Course Textbook

Weale, Albert. 2007. Democracy. Second Edition. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

I would suggest that all students read through the textbook by the end of the second week.
The text constitutes a sustained argument and our lectures will approach it piecemeal. You will be better placed to benefit from our discussions if your reading has provided you with a comprehensive introduction.  

Background Reading
As general background sources, students may like to consult:

Rousseau On the Social Contract. We will talk about this text quite a bit. You should consider purchasing a copy. As it is one of the most influent works in political theory, second hand copies are widely available, as are e-copies (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site..

John Dunn. Setting the People Free: The Story of Democracy. London: Atlantic Books, 2005.

Frank Cunningham Theories of Democracy: A Critical Introduction New York : Routledge, 2002

The Idea of Democracy, edited by David Copp, Jean Hampton and John Roemer, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Christiano, Tom, "Democracy", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .

Held, David Modes of Democracy (any edition)

Other background reading may be appropriate. The library has a wide range of introductory titles.

Online Sources

Many of the articles assigned, both the recommended and required, are available online using the university’s subscriptions to databases such as Jstor and journal e-publications.

Online copies are often much easier to access than hard-bound copies and save trees. I provide information as to online location of e-readings in the lecture programme.

The lecture program periodically indicates relevant podcasts available from 'Philosophy Bites' and other sources.

These are free and available either through ITunes (or at to an external site. (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Students are encouraged to listen to non-specified broadcasts, as many of these contain interesting and relevant information.

Supplemental E-Resources

 The following are some additional websites with information on topics we discuss:

This website contains discussion by contemporary political theorists, often pertaining to current events.

The website contains a large amount of information helpful to introductory-level scholarship in theory.

The Routledge Encyclopaedia of Philosophy contains a significant amount of information helpful to introductory-level scholarship in theory.

The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy contains a significant amount of information helpful to more advanced scholarship in theory.


The Tuākana Arts programme is part of the University’s commitment to equitable outcomes for our Maori and Pacific students. In addition to the support available to all students, Tuākana provides guidance as you navigate the cultural and academic life of the University. Please get in touch with the Tuakana programme:

Assignments. Click on links at bottom of the page for more details

Assessment Type               Due Date            Value as % of total assessment                       

5 Reviews  (70 words each)     Weeks 2,3,4,5,6       Value:   5%

ESSAY 1    (1200 Words)       18 Sept                       Value: 15%

ESSAY 2    (3000 Words)       16 Oct                     Value: 50%

EXAMINATION                       TBA                          Value: 30%


Plussage DOES NOT apply in this course.

Coursework should conform to the latest version of the Department’s Coursework Guide.

As per the coursework guide, essays are to be submitted both in hard copy and through Canvas.

Students are advised to consult the following people (in this order) at the earliest possible opportunity if, for any reason, they experience problems in completing an assessment:

  • The Lecturer.
          • The Undergraduate Advisor.

See the file entitled Writing Tips for help in writing essays

Late Coursework:

The standard tariff of penalities is as follows:

Essays submitted up to two days late will lose 5 marks

Essays submitted three to five days late will lose 10 marks

Essays submitted six to ten days late will lose 25 marks

Essays submitted more than ten days past the due submission date will not be accepted and the student will be given a 0% mark for the essay.

Students are strongly encouraged to see their tutor/lecturer in advance of the due date to discuss what options are available to complete the coursework despite prospective lateness.

For more information, see the Coursework Guide.

Return of Coursework

We will return marked essays as quickly as possible. These will be returned in the lecture or in the discussion hour. Material that remains uncollected at the end of term will be destroyed.

Reviews will not be returned. As these are past/fail assessments, they will not have normally have pedagogic comments. However, in some cases, teaching staff may draw the student's attention to particular issues.


The University of Auckland's expectation on 15-point courses, is that students spend 10 hours per week on the course. Students manage their academic workload and other commitments accordingly. Students attend two hours of lectures each week and participate in a one-hour tutorial from week 2 of semester. This leaves seven hours per week outside the classroom to prepare for tutorials, assignments and the exam.

Course summary:

Date Details Due