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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Politics

Undergraduate Course: Democracy and contemporary capitalism (PLIT10139)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course examines the complicated relationship between democracy and modern capitalism. It will probe both the complementarities and conflicts that emerge from the interaction of these systems and explore their relation to today's major political challenges including the rise of populism, growing inequality, economic stagnation, technocratic governance, financial and ecological crises, and the spread of illiberal democracies. The course will advance a theoretically grounded and historical understanding of the socioeconomic tensions produced by maturing capitalist democracies while incorporating core themes of political science such as state theory, the exercise of political power, the distribution consequences of globalisation, the evolution of the welfare state, and comparative models of market economies.
Course description The course will be situated in the context of today's major challenges and focus on how different authors interpret the present relationship between capitalism and democracy. Initial lectures will examine theoretical arguments concerning the incompatibility of democracy and capitalism, and counterpose these with the view that one is not possible without the other. This will be supplemented with an historical assessment of the developmental trajectory and evolution of (advanced) capitalist democracies.

The course expands on these considerations to evaluate contending perspectives on the democratic capitalist state and the implications they hold for the exercise of political power. This will incorporate debates about Pluralism, Elite theory, Marxism, State Autonomy theory, and 'middle-range' neo-institutionalist perspectives on state action. Here, students will grapple with the question of how public policy is formulated, the appropriate role of the state, and how different social groups hold disproportionate sway over the policymaking process.

The third part of the course focuses on the challenges faced by contemporary capitalist democracies, particularly in the context of globalisation and the disturbances caused by the financial crash of 2007/08. These lectures will emphasise the close intersection of political and economic dilemmas. Subsequently, they will examine various ways to address global challenges and compare policy responses favouring either a unilateral nation-state approach (e.g. Brexit), regionalism (e.g. EU), or global co-ordination.

Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Introduction to Politics and International Relations (PLIT08004) OR Politics in a Changing World: An Introduction for non-specialists (PLIT08012) OR Politics and International Relations 1A: Concepts and Debates (PLIT08017)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 4 Politics/International Relations courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses.
** as numbers are limited, visiting students should contact the Visiting Student Office directly for admission to this course **
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2022/23, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  45
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 10, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 10, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 1st assessment: 2,500 word essay (50%)
The first essay will focus on evaluating students understanding of some fundamental theoretical debates surrounding the relationship between democracy and capitalism. Students will be marked on their ability to articulate and appraise opposing viewpoints on this relationship, as well as their capacity to relate their discussion to the historical development of capitalist democracies.

2nd assessment: 2,500 word essay (50%)
The second essay will assess students ability to apply their knowledge of the complementarities and tensions within capitalist democracies to real-world, 'live' issues. Students will be marked on their ability to frame and evaluate a contemporary political economy dilemma/challenge, and critically examine policy proposals to address it.
Feedback All assignments will be returned with feedback within 15 working days of submission. Students will receive feedback on the first assignment before they submit their second. Students will also have the opportunity to discuss their feedback and essay plans with the course convenor during guidance and feedback hours.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand and clearly communicate the major theoretical perspectives on the relationship between capitalism and democracy.
  2. Analyse the evolving configuration of advanced capitalist democracies throughout the 20th and 21st century and distinguish between varying developmental models of democratic capitalism.
  3. Critically assess competing theories of the state and appraise their distinctive implications for the exercise of political power and policymaking influence.
  4. Apply theoretically informed knowledge on the capitalism-democracy relationship and state theory in order to propose original insights into the key political economy dilemmas of the contemporary era, and with respect to globalisation.
  5. Generate potential policy responses to salient political economy challenges and demonstrate why they are most appropriately tackled at either a national, regional, or global level.
Reading List
Beramendi, P., Häusermann, S., Kitschelt, H., & Kriesi, H. (Eds.). (2015). The politics of advanced capitalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Boix, C. (2019). Democratic Capitalism at the Crossroads: Technological Change and the Future of Politics. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Fraser, N. (2015). Legitimation crisis? On the political contradictions of financialized capitalism. Critical Historical Studies, 2(2), 157-189.

Iversen, T., & Soskice, D. (2020). Democracy and prosperity: Reinventing capitalism through a turbulent century. Princeton: Princeton University.

Mair, P. (2013). Ruling the void: The hollowing of Western democracy. London: Verso Books.

Rueschemeyer, D., & Stephens, E., & Stephens, J. (1992). Capitalist Development and Democracy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Streeck, W. (2014). Buying time: The delayed crisis of democratic capitalism. London: Verso Books.

Streeck, W. (2016). How Will Capitalism End? Essays on a Failing System. London: Verso Books.

Tooze, A. (2018). Crashed: How a decade of financial crises changed the world. New York: Penguin.

Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Students will
- Advance their capacity to critically reflect on a range of nuanced and theoretically informed literature as a means to generate novel insights into contemporary political issues.
- Gain a deep understanding of salient political economy issues, thus enhancing their attractiveness to future employers/recruiters in the area of academia, government and civil service, think tanks, and the media.
- Develop crucial analytical skills allowing them to discriminate between different forms of evidence, recognize familiar assumptions embedded within different cognitive frameworks, build arguments based upon logical reasoning, and identify intellectual blind-spots.
- Develop their ability to articulate and communicate complex ideas in both a written and oral format.
- Learn to engage in constructive engagement with others through group participation and in-class debate activities.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Manolis Kalaitzake
Course secretaryMs Alison Lazda
Tel: (0131 6)51 5572
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