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Futures of Democracy

Department: Philosophy, Politics and Society
Coordinator: Mathijs van de Sande
Accessible to: PTRS students, Exchange students PTRS. Students from other faculties can mail to stip@ftr.ru.nl. Exchange students from other faculties can mail to internationaloffice@ftr.ru.nl.
Prerequisites: https://www.ru.nl/courseguides/fftr/bachelor-pps/access-pps-courses-modules/
Period: Semester 2, period 3 and 4


There is arguably no political concept that is used more often, and in a wider variety of contexts, than ‘democracy.’ Nearly every party, politician, or movement – from Vladimir Putin to Occupy Wall Street – and almost every country in the world – from the United Kingdom to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – calls itself ‘democratic.’ Very often, ‘democracy’ is substantialized or appropriated into ‘the’ or ‘our’ democracy.

This also means that in any political analysis of the contemporary political landscape, the term ‘democracy’ is almost inevitably implied. It may not even be possible to imagine what our future society might look like without appealing to this very concept. ‘Democracy’ is what some philosophers call a ‘floating signifier:’ a term that has a central place in nearly every political discourse, but nevertheless serves very different, possibly even opposed interests and agendas. But, precisely for this reason, the question what exactly ‘democracy’ means, is always itself a subject of political conflict. Politicians, activists, and citizens – but also philosophers, political scientists, and artists – continuously seek to inscribe it with new content.

The question central to this module, therefore, is not only in what different ways the term ‘democracy’ is defined and used in the contemporary political and philosophical landscape; but also how our understanding of this concept is always immediately at stake in political conflicts. What exactly do we mean when we use the term ‘democracy’ – and which critique, normative claims, or future ideals are implied in it?

Period Course Course ID Credits
3 + 4 Forms of Democracy: A Comparative Approach FTR-FIPPSB207 5
3 + 4 Who is the Demos FTR-FIPPSB208 5
3 + 4 Counter-Democracy: Case Studies FTR-FIPPSB209 5
Module Code: FTR-MI-FI110-20