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Deliberative Democracy and its Limits


Admission requirements

There are no admission requirements for this course. It is recommended, however, that students have some degree of affinity and/or experience with political theory.


In recent decades, deliberative democracy has become a major strand of research within both political theory and empirical political science. The main idea of deliberative democratic thought is that (governmental) policies are only legitimate if they are the outcome of deliberation – a type of discourse in which those impacted by the policies in question are given the opportunity to argue about the legitimacy and justness of the policies. In this way, traditional ideals of popular sovereignty and civil participation can therefore be seen in a new, somewhat modern interpretation.
In this course, students are introduced to the works of several important contributors in the field of deliberative democracy, like Jürgen Habermas and Gutmann & Thompson. Based on the works of such contributors, several models of deliberative democracy will be discussed, including points of critique on those models. Such criticism will be based on two perspectives: first, theoretical criticism (from a political-theoretical perspective), which focuses on the desirability of deliberative democracy; is it an ideal worthy to strive for? Second, students are stimulated to develop criticism from a more empirical standpoint (mainly based on comparative politics), mainly focused on the practical potential of deliberative democracy; is it feasible or practically tenable? With the knowledge students attain through this course, they are expected to write a critical analysis of deliberative democracy at the end of this course, in the form of a paper.

Course objectives

  1. Students gain knowledge about theories of deliberative democracy
  2. Students gain knowledge and develop nalytical skills with regard to critiquing a political-theoretical topic, from both a political-theoretical as well as an empirical perspective
  3. Students hone their written presentation skills through writing a substantive paper on a political-theoretical topic

Mode of instruction

Bachelor seminar

Assessment method

Students are assessed in two ways:

  • Two papers, one overview paper (30%) and one critical paper (50%) about deliberative democracy

  • Participation (20%)

Reading list

An overview of the required literature will be placed on Brightspace before the beginning of the course.


See general information on Year 3.




For questions please contact Stijn Koenraads: