Course description

What does democracy mean for citizens today? Over the past few decades, our understanding of democracy has evolved significantly. There is a renewed debate about democracy's meanings, as well as the institutions and practices that democracy requires. This interest has been inspired by a third wave of democratization in developing countries, as well as growing concerns about populism and political disaffection within established liberal democracies. Contemporary democratic theory is now diverse, expansive, and exciting, offering multiple opportunities for students to combine normatively significant problems and perspectives with empirical research. This course is intended to acquaint students with some of these possibilities. Each week, we explore a different component of modern democratic institutions and practices, including elections, civil society, participation, representation, disagreement, deliberation, equality, multiculturalism, expertise, and institutional design. Students gain an appreciation of the varieties of democratic thought, a knowledge of the key concepts and debates in the field, and a sense of how democratic ideals are approximated in institutional forms, both within the United States and across the world.

Instructor

  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow Fellow, Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Harvard Kennedy School
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