Political Institutions

Term: 
Winter
Credits: 
4.0
Type: 
Core
Course Description: 

It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the study of institutions forms the core of political science. The principal aim of the course is to familiarize students with cutting-edge research on the development and the consequences of political institutions. The course is divided into two parts, each with its own instructor.

In the first part, prof. Bogaards introduces students to the new institutionalism in political science. Each session has a mix of theory and empirical analysis. This part of the course has two objectives. First, to introduce students to the main types of institutional theory in combination with selected empirical applications. Second, to familiarize students with the various processes that strengthen and transform institutions.

In the second part, Andres Moles discusses political institutions, and their justification from the perspective of normative political theory. The justification of political institutions is a core problem in political philosophy. We start by examining to what extent institutions are fundamental by looking at Cohen’s critique to Rawls. Then we examine questions regarding what makes political institutions problematic. For some, it is the coercive restrictions of the freedom of those subject to political rule that call for special justification. For others, it is the distinctive form of inequality associated with the relationship of some people ruling over others that requires justification. Furthermore, there are divergent interpretations of the values of freedom and equality underlying the suggested need for justification. Correspondingly, different analyses of the basis of the requirement of special justification point towards different accounts of the necessary conditions of successful justification. Different accounts of the problem that require a response point towards two distinct though not mutually exclusive political ideals as the basis of justified political rule. Freedom-based accounts of the problem of political rule are associated with the rule of law as a political ideal, whereas equality-based analyses of the problem of rule point towards democracy as a distinctively egalitarian procedure as (part of) the answer. The course will discuss these different accounts and will conclude by bringing these perspectives to bear on the problem of international legal practices and the conditions of their legitimacy.

 

Learning Outcomes: 

The expected learning outcomes of the second part of the course include familiarity with the conceptual tools and theoretical approaches to the normative study of political institutions, and with the main normative problems of political rule. Furthermore, the course is expected to enhance analytical skills and skills on normative reasoning.

For more on how to write a philosophy paper check Doug’s Portmore’s ‘Tip on writing a philosophy paper’ at http://www.public.asu.edu/~dportmor/tips.pdf (also available at the e-learning site). See also James Pryor’s guide at http://www.jimpryor.net/teaching/guidelines/writing.html, and Jimmy Lenman’s https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/polopoly_fs/1.316711!/file/Crap-Essay.doc

Assessment: 

Assignments and assessment (second part, Prof. Moles)

 

(1) Students will present one reading in class (10%)

(2) Submit written questions or discussion points about two additional readings (10%)

(3) A term paper of approximately 2,500 words that critically discusses a particular problem (20%).

(4) Participation (10%)

Grades mean the following:

F= Fail. Poor

C+ Minimum Pass. Significant confusions; unawareness of some crucial arguments; poor written style

B- Satisfactory. Struggles to organize main ideas of the paper. Some confusions, but a general sense of the main arguments.

B Good. Cover material covered in class, good reconstruction of main arguments, written expression is clear and succinct

B+ Very good. Cover material covered in class, good reconstruction of main arguments, written expression is clear and succinct, plus understanding of subsidiary arguments, familiarity with secondary literature. Some display of analytical skills.

A- Excellent. Cover material covered in class, good reconstruction of main arguments, written expression is clear and succinct, plus understanding of subsidiary arguments, familiarity with secondary literature; independent reconstruction of arguments; display of good analytical skills; some critical engagement with the material.

A outstanding. Cover material covered in class, good reconstruction of main arguments, written expression is clear and succinct, plus understanding of subsidiary arguments, familiarity with secondary literature; independent reconstruction of arguments; display of good analytical skills, signals of independent thought, critical engagement with the arguments.

Prerequisites: 

No prior knowledge is assumed, although students with a solid background in political science will have an easier time than others. Students are expected to be present at all seminars and to come prepared, as the seminars are interactive and based on a collective examination and discussion of the core reading for that session. If you are unable to attend class, please notify the instructor via e-mail prior to the session.