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Participating in Politics

Module titleParticipating in Politics
Module codePOC1023
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Professor Clare Saunders (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

Political participation is crucial for the healthy functioning of democracies. Yet political participation is changing: political party membership in western democracies has been declining (although the Labour Party in Britain is an important exception) at the same time as electoral participation has generally waned. As participation in electoral politics has tailed off, newer forms of political engagement such as engaging in protests and signing petitions have appeared to be on the rise. This alleged trend in which unconventional political participation is seen as a replacement for conventional (electoral) participation is known as the ‘Democratic Phoenix’ (Norris 2001). In this module, you will examine trends in political participation in western democracies to assess the Democratic Phoenix theory. You will critically assess whether it is true that non-conventional political participation has come to surpass electoral participation. You will engage in at least two acts of political participation and evaluate the efficacy of your actions using knowledge and concepts gained in lectures and seminars.

No prior knowledge, skills or experience are required to take this module and it is suitable for specialist and non-specialist students. This module serves as a complement to: 'British Government and Politics’ (POC1003) and ‘The Public Policy Process’ (POC1014).

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module provides a clear and inspiring introduction to different types of political participation in democratic countries. The module will enable you to reflect critically and creatively on the idea of a democratic phoenix, which purports that we do not need to worry about disengagement from politics – people are simply engaging in different ways. It will introduce you to the main ways of engaging in politics, and illustrate the advantages and disadvantages of different forms of political participation.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. analyse and understand the channels open for citizens to participate in politics in democratic countries
  • 2. understand, evaluate and apply a range of concepts and theories about political participation to understand how and why political participation varies cross countries;
  • 3. appreciate the efficacy of different types of political participation for achieving social or policy change;

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. identify and discuss core political concepts around political participation;
  • 5. understand how survey evidence is (mis)used in the study of political participation;

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. apply scholarly reflections to own political participation;
  • 7. present coherent arguments in a ‘call to action’ for political participation; and
  • 8. communicate effectively in your written and oral work.

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Defining political participation and its place in a democracy
  • Electoral / party participation
  • Lobbying / contacting an MP
  • Petitions: on- and off-line
  • Wearing badges / ribbons
  • Legal demonstrations
  • Radical actions (occupations, sit-ins)
  • Strikes
  • Youth engagement
  • Boycotts / buycotts
  • Civic engagement / voluntary organisations

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activity16.511 x 1.5 hour lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activity1010 x 1 hour seminars
Guided Independent Study85Private study. 8.5 hours preparing for each seminar (x10)
Guided Independent Study20Engaging in political actions and writing scholarly reflections
Guided Independent Study18.5Preparing call to action


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Peer review5 minute commentary1, 3, 8Verbal

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Scholarly reflections on two types of political participation engaged in during the course702,000 words1-8Written, verbal on request
Call to action301-page (words and/or pictures)7Written, verbal on request


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Scholarly reflectionsScholarly reflections (2,000 words)1-8August/September re-assessment period
Call to action1-page (words and/or pictures)7August/September re-assessment period


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Dalton, R. (2007) Citizen Politics: Public Opinion and Political Parties in Advanced Industrial Democracies, Washington DC: CQ Press.

Gallego, A.  (2015) Unequal Political Participation Worldwide, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Meredith, R. (2012) Voter Turnout: A Social Theory of Political Participation, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Norris, P. (2002) Democratic Phoenix: Reinventing Political Activism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pattie,C., P. Seyd and P. Whiteley (2004) Citizenship in Britain: Values, Participation and Democracy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Uldam, J and A. Vestergaard (eds) (2015) Civic Engagement and Social Media; Political Participation Beyond the Protest, Basingstoke, Palgrave MacMillan.

Whiteley, P. (2012) Political Partiicpation in Britain and the Decline and Revival of Civic Culture, Basingstoke, Palgrave MacMillan.

Zukin, C.  et al (2006) A New Engagement? Political Participation, Civic Life and the Changing American. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Political participation

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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