Political Institutions

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, 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.

In the second 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.


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.

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