Democracy and religion. How does religion influence democracy? Are democratic values incompatible with religious values?

This assignment requires students to research and compose a piece of independent research on a key issue facing democracy in the 21st century. Students must respond to at least one of the questions contained in any of the provided essay prompts, which each identify a key area of research in the study of democracy in theory and practice. The specificity and depth of this exercise will be the biggest challenge, and it will require a considerable amount of research into a specific area of political theorizing and/or debate.

The Annotated Bibliography will evaluate students on their ability to independently identify and annotate at least five (5) peer-reviewed sources that are relevant to their chosen essay topic. The bibliography requires students to choose their topic well in advance of the deadline and gives them the chance to sharpen their research skills and descriptive writing. Each annotation should appear below a properly formatted citation and need not be longer than a single paragraph of 5-6 sentences in length. In these annotations, students should focus on two things: first, describe the content of the source under review, and second, analyze the significance of this content and why it matters for their central argument. Students must provide annotations for a minimum of five (5) peer-reviewed sources from outside the assigned course readings.

The Final Research Essay will evaluate students based on two criteria. Students will be graded first on their ability to develop a thesis statement and essay structure in response to one of the provided essay prompts. Second, students will be graded on their ability to situate their essay and argument within the academic literature they have engaged through independent research. Students should use these sources to identify what arguments they agree or disagree with, and what theoretical frameworks are relevant to substantiating their research question or central argument. The introduction should lay out a research question and/or thesis. The body of the essay should provide a theoretical framework to help contextualize a research question or central argument, most commonly established by a literature review, followed by some dimension of empirical or comparative analysis. Students are also encouraged to explore methods of autocritique (i.e. self-criticism) by consciously anticipating and exploring potential counterarguments, in order to highlight both the value and the limitations of their argument. Conclusions should contain some analysis of the central argument’s significance rather than simply restating a thesis and overall findings. Students must use a minimum of eight (8) peer-reviewed sources in their bibliography, inclusive of the five (5) sources identified in your annotated bibliography.

Students must respond to at least one question from any of the following essay prompts:

  1. Ideal democracy and democratic values. How do democratic ideals influence democracy in theory and practice? What is democracy? What are democratic values? What makes democracy the most “virtuous” form of government, and what does this mean? Tip: Discuss with reference to the moral and political philosophy of someone we have covered in class, for example John Stuart Mill.
  2. Democracy and religion. How does religion influence democracy? Are democratic values incompatible with religious values? Is democracy an instrument of religious and cultural conversion? How might religions benefit from democracy, or conversely, how might they be hindered? Tip: Discuss with reference or one or more religions.
  3. Democracy and authoritarianism. How does authoritarianism influence democracy? The ancients feared that in democracy lay a path to autocracy, but today democratization is viewed as autocracy’s remedy. Is democracy a pathway to authoritarianism or is it the antidote? Does one produce the other, or is this an oversimplification? Tip: Discuss with reference to history and the ‘Three Waves’ of democratization.
  4. Democracy and nationalism. How does nationalism influence democracy? How is nationalism channeled into politics? Is nationalism harmful to democracy? Tip: Discuss with reference either to theories of nationalism, or to specific nationalist movements.
  5. Democracy and class / capitalism. How do capitalism and economic inequality influence democracy? Is capitalism harmful to democracy, or is it a necessary feature? How do market hierarchies reconcile with democratic values of equality? Tip: Discuss with reference to liberal and/or Marxist theory, or to specific histories of economic injustice.
  6. Democracy and race. How do democratic institutions uphold and/or challenge racism and racial prejudice? How do political theories of race relate to the study of democracy? Tip: Discuss with reference to critical or postcolonial theory, or to specific histories of racism and political inequality.
  7. Democracy and gender. How are democratic ideas and practices gendered? In what ways do gendered relations of power animate structures of governance? How do political theories of gender relate to the study of democracy? Tip: Discuss with reference either to feminist theory, or to specific histories of sexism and political inequality.
  8. Democracy and globalization / regionalism. How does globalization and/or regionalism influence democracy at the national level? Is democracy possible at a supranational level, such as the EU? To what extent can international institutions be considered democratic? Tip: Discuss with reference to a specific political geography or institution.
  9. Democracy and development. How does development influence democracy? What is political development and how does it relate to theories of democracy? Is democratization a necessary feature of development? What roles do institutions and cultures play? Tip: Discuss with reference to political theories of development, such as modernization or dependency theory, or to specific histories of decolonization and/or democratization.
  10. Digital democracy / democracy and technology. How do emergent digital technologies influence democracy? Could information technologies make large-scale, participatory democracy possible? Does the Internet improve democracy’s prospects, or does it diminish them? Tip: Discuss with reference to political theories of technology, or to specific technologies and the way they are used toward political ends.

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