PSCI 6650

Professor Jacinda Swanson

Fall 2008

3412 Friedmann

Wed 5:30-8pm

Office Hours: Tue 3:30-5, Wed 2-3:15, Thurs 11-12 & by appt

Friedman 3309




Modern Democratic Theory


Overview and Objectives:


This seminar is intended to provide an introduction to and overview of some of the main currents in democratic political theory. We will begin by studying the history and development of western democracy, both as an ideal and practice, and representative government. We will then examine several different contemporary theoretical approaches to democracy, for example, elitist, pluralist, participatory, deliberative, and radical. As we will see, within and across these approaches, theorists differ enormously in how they define democracy, its ends and values (e.g., equality, freedom, popular sovereignty, participation), and its scope (e.g., where democratic decisionmaking is appropriate); believe democracy should be implemented institutionally; envision the role of citizens and leaders; conceive the cultural, economic, and political preconditions of democratic practices and citizenship; theorize the ontological status of human nature, individual and collective identity, and “the people” and the epistemological status of citizens’ interests, values, and reasoning; conceptualize power, legitimacy, stability, and social/political change; and so forth.


In this seminar, we will be taking the texts and their arguments seriously, paying close attention to how authors define concepts, the logic of their arguments, and the ethical, social, political, and economic consequences of their arguments. This will require close, detailed readings of the texts. In other words, this class seeks to further develop your skills in systematically analyzing political arguments and theories, rather than simply summarizing them, which will require a particular (analytical) approach to reading, discussing, and writing. (Analyzing involves, for example, determining a writer’s assumptions, how she/he defines key political concepts, the logical steps in her/his argument, how her/his different ideas fit together, etc.) We will also be attentive to the similarities and differences among the authors. The aim is not only to gain an in-depth understanding of the specific theorists we read, but also, more generally, to increase your ability to read and grasp the arguments of other political theorists as well as your ability to formulate appropriate and compelling theoretical frameworks for (empirically) studying various political phenomena, whether it’s in the field of U.S. politics or comparative politics.


Required Texts:

Please bring a hard copy of the readings to class since we will often read and analyze passages from the readings in class.


·        A course packet with readings (referred to as “CP” on the syllabus), printed by and available at the WMU Bookstore in the Bernhard Center. If they run out of copies, you MUST specifically ask the bookstore to order a copy for you, which should be available for you to pick up the following day.

·        Seyla Benhabib, ed. 1996. Democracy and Difference: Contesting the Boundaries of the Political. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

·        Emily Hauptmann. 1996. Putting Choice Before Democracy: A Critique of Rational Choice Theory. Albany :State University of New York Press.


Additional REQUIRED readings: secondary sources available through WMU library’s e-reserve system (, under the listing for this class; these books are also on reserve at Waldo Library):


·        David Held. 1996. “Classical Democracy” and “Republicanism.” Models of Democracy, 2nd ed, 13-69. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

·        Joseph A. Schumpeter. 1950. “The Classical Doctrine of Democracy” and “Another Theory of Democracy.” Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, 250-83. New York: Harper & Brothers.

·        Robert Dahl. 1956. “Polyarchal Democracy.” A Preface to Democratic Theory, 63-89. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

·        Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson. 1996. “The Persistence of Moral Disagreement.” Democracy and Disagreement, 11-51. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press. [footnotes pp. 363-73]

·        Sheldon Wolin. 1992 [1982]. “What Revolutionary Action Means Today.” In Dimensions of Radical Democracy: Pluralism, Citizenship, Community, ed. Chantal Mouffe, 240-53. New York: Verso.

·        Anna Marie Smith. 1998. “Retrieving Democracy: The Radical Democratic Imaginary.” Laclau and Mouffe: The Radical Democratic Imaginary, 6-41. New York: Routledge. [footnotes pp. 203-5]

·        William E. Connolly. 1995. “Democracy, Equality, Normality.” The Ethos of Pluralization, 75-104. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. [footnotes pp. 217-9]

·        J. K. Gibson-Graham, Stephen Resnick, and Richard D. Wolff. 2001. “Towards a Poststructuralist Political Economy.” In Re/Presenting Class: Essays in Postmodern Marxism, eds. J. K. Gibson-Graham, Stephen Resnick, and Richard D. Wolff, 1-22. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.


Course Requirements:

Please notify me if you have a documented disability that requires accommodation.


Please see the university’s religious observance policy at 


A complete and updated copy of this syllabus can be found online, at the link for this class at Assignments will be handed out and/or emailed to you (at your WMU email account). Feel free to contact me via email with questions about the readings, assignments, and so forth, although be aware that, in general, I will not be checking my email regularly in the evenings and on weekends.



·        seminar participation, 15%

Participation includes regular, active participation in weekly seminar discussion (7%), as well as writing 3 or 4 (depending on class enrollment) one-page (singe-spaced, 11 or 12 pt font, 1” margins) in-depth analyses of an important concept or argument from one of the week’s assigned readings. These analyses should NOT attempt to summarize an entire chapter or article. Each week students will be assigned to provide such an analysis for each of the readings (a signup sheet will be passed around the first two weeks of class); each student should either bring enough copies of her/his analysis to distribute to the entire seminar OR email or bring me a copy of the analysis at least 15 minutes before class, which I will then photocopy; each student will read her/his analysis to the class during our discussion of that reading (in the name of time, students should limit themselves to reading their analysis and take no more than 5 minutes). These one page analyses will be graded and should contain appropriate citations.

·        3 short (5 page) papers, 19% each

These papers will be on assigned topics and based on the assigned readings; they do not require outside research.

·        take-home final exam (approx 12 pages), 28%

It will be based on the assigned readings and does not require outside research.


Note: Because I am typically in my office only on Tues., Wed., and Thurs., you’ll need to email your papers and final exam to me (unless you’re turning them in early, when I am in my office). If you turn in a paper via email, do NOT assume I have received it just because your email apparently went through. Make sure you receive an email back from me confirming receipt.


You are responsible for making yourself aware of and understanding the policies and procedures in the Graduate Catalogs that pertain to Academic Honesty. These policies include cheating, fabrication, falsification and forgery, multiple submission, plagiarism, complicity and computer misuse. (The policies can be found at under Academic Policies, Student Rights and Responsibilities.) If there is reason to believe you have been involved in academic dishonesty, you will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct. You will be given the opportunity to review the charge(s). If you believe you are not responsible, you will have the opportunity for a hearing. You should consult with me if you are uncertain about an issue of academic honesty prior to the submission of an assignment or test. A finding of responsibility for academic dishonesty on any assignment will result in failure of this course (see the Graduate Catalog).



For various reasons—proper scholarly practice, because the papers and exam are to be grounded in a close reading of the text, and in order to properly back up your interpretation and argument—you are REQUIRED to give a citation for EVERY claim you make about the theorist’s definitions, arguments, assumptions, etc. in ALL papers and exams you submit in this class. (I should be able to look up every point you make in order to confirm that you are making a plausible claim about the theorist’s argument.) Your paper should not consist, though, of a bunch of direct quotes strung together: do not use too many direct quotes or overly long quotes (1-2 lines max), because you always need to explain/interpret the quote and to indicate its relevance to your argument, both of which take up valuable space. Use quotation marks to indicate when you are borrowing more than 3-5 exact words of the author. When you paraphrase the author’s ideas, you should substantially reword the author’s words. Unless indicated otherwise, simply cite page numbers by putting them in parentheses at the end of the sentence(s) for which you’re providing a citation. If you are using an edition of the reading different from the assigned one, you will need to give me a copy of that edition when you turn in your paper so I can look up any points I may need to verify.


Grading scale:












Course Outline:

Sept. 3




Sept. 10

Manin, intro & ch. 1 (CP)


Held, ch. 1 (e-reserve)



Sept. 17

Manin, ch. 2 (CP)


Held, ch. 2 (e-reserve)



Sept. 24

Schumpeter (e-reserve)


Dahl (e-reserve)





Oct. 1

Pateman (CP)



Oct. 8

Bachrach & Botwinick (CP)


Fraser in Democracy and Difference





Sat. Oct. 11




Oct. 15

Hauptmann, Putting Choice Before Democracy (entire)



Oct. 22

Habermas in Democracy and Difference


Benhabib in Democracy and Difference


Young in Democracy and Difference



Sat. Oct. 25




Oct. 29

Gutmann and Thompson (e-reserve)


Emily Hauptmann. 2001. “Can Less Be More? Leftist Deliberative Democrats' Critique of Participatory Democracy.” Polity 33, no. 3 (Spring): 397-421. (JSTOR; print out pdf)


Darren R. Walhof. 2005. “Bringing the Deliberative Back In: Gadamer on Conversation and Understanding.” Contemporary Political Theory 4, no. 2 (May): 154-74. (ProQuest; print out pdf)





Nov. 5

Wolin in Democracy and Difference


Wolin (e-reserve)


Lefort (CP)



Nov. 12

Mouffe (CP)



Sat. Nov. 15




Nov. 19

Smith (e-reserve)


Connolly (e-reserve)


Gibson-Graham et al. (e-reserve)



Nov. 26

NO CLASS (Thanksgiving break)



Dec. 3

Mansbridge in Democracy and Difference


Honig in Democracy and Difference


Barber in Democracy and Difference



Tue. Dec 9