Sunday, January 18, 2009

Issues in Democratic Theory

Graduate class:

Issues in Democratic Theory

Dr Ben Saunders

Monday 11-1 (weeks 1-6)

Corpus Christi College, Seminar Room

These seminars will cover a number of issues in recent democratic theory. They are open to all interested in political philosophy/theory, including B.Phil, M.Phil Politics and BCL, as well as advanced undergraduates.

My aim is to present a number of pieces of work in progress, though there will also be opportunities for students to present on issues that interest them. Possible topics include (but are not limited to): defining democracy; justification of democracy; the ‘boundary problem’; the place of majority rule; weighted voting; the ethics of voting; vote trading; minority rights; parties and partisanship; and national vs. global democracy. Each week’s session will be largely self-contained and a schedule will be drawn up in the first meeting.

Those who would like to present are encouraged to email me in advance to discuss topics, readings and weeks. Presentations should ideally be more than merely expository, but may simply comment on the existing literature as an invitation to discussion.

My aim is to circulate a list of background reading each week (which is not expected for the class, but for those who wish to explore further). Those who would like some general recommendations in contemporary democratic theory should consider D. Estlund (2007) Democratic Authority, R. E. Goodin (2008) Innovating Democracy, and T. Christiano (2008) The Constitution of Equality.

In the first week, I will present on the problem of defining democracy and, in particular, whether markets can be seen as democratic. Optional background reading:

J. Elster ‘The Market and the Forum: Three Varieties of Political Theory’. In Elster and Hylands (eds.) (1986) Foundations of Social Choice Theory, or Bohman and Rehg (eds.) (1997) Deliberative Democracy: Essays on Reason and Politics

M. Walzer (1983) Spheres of Justice chs. 1 and 12

P. Pettit (2008) ‘Three Conceptions of Democratic Control’ Constellations 15:1 46-55

J. Ober (2008) ‘The Original Meaning of “Democracy”: Capacity to Do Things, not Majority Rule’ Constellations 15:1 3-9

I will organize an email list in the first session, but a schedule, reading list and draft papers will be posted on WebLearn.

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