New Democracies, Old Questions

Term: Spring 2012

Subject Code: GPOL

Course Number: 5314

“New Democracies, Old Questions”
Lawrence Hamilton (UJ, Politics), David Plotke (NSSR, Politics)
Democracy is now the avowed commitment of most regimes in the contemporary world, from false
monarchies (Sweden) to real tyrannies (North Korea). Rather than settling arguments, however, that great
political shift opens the way for new arguments about what it does and should mean for a polity to be
reasonably democratic. We start with a brief assessment of competing definitions of democracy. Then we
look at the relevant modern history – the re‐emergence of the notion of 'democracy' in the late 18th Century,
19th Century developments, and contemporary arguments and examples, with special reference to post-apartheid
South Africa. Throughout we will pay attention to two enduring sets of questions. One concerns the
relations among democratic virtues (e.g., participation, deliberation, equal voting). The other is about
relations between democracy and power (e.g., representation, political judgment, empowerment). In other
words, we will demonstrate why it is important to be both realistic and utopian regarding democracy.

Taught by David Plotke, NSSR and Lawrence Hamilton, University of Johannesburg, South Africa at the Democracy & Diversity Graduate Summer Institute organized by TCDS and the University of Johannesburg (UJ), to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from January 5-21, 2012.

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