POLS5301 Democracy in Divided Societies

6 points
(see Summer Timetable)
Summer teaching periodUWA (Perth)Face to face
Making democracy work in societies afflicted by deep ideological, cultural or ethnic divisions is a challenge for both new and established democracies. This unit will introduce students to the academic debate and examine the causes of social polarization, and examine different approaches to political reform for the management of social cleavages. Taking a broad view of multi-ethnic societies in Asia and the Western world, it will compare the relative success of democracy in the world's largest Islamic country, Indonesia, with its more developed but less democratic neighbours. It will also examine cases such as Taiwan, in which national identity is an existential question. The class will then move on to the West, and examine efforts to promote stable democracy in Bosnia and Northern Ireland. It will conclude by offering a comparative case study of two established democracies, the United States and Australia – both continental-sized immigrant societies which have developed quite different political cultures. The course will conclude with an examination of what approaches to political amelioration and de-polarization work in different environments, and the challenges of adopting appropriate reforms.
Students are able to (1) critically reflect on the challenges of democracy in divided societies; (2) demonstrate advanced understanding of how social divisions can undermine representative government; (3) analyse different approaches to making democracy work in divided or polarized societies; and (4) critically review the role of politics in inflaming or ameliorating social divisions.
Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) participation; (2) group assignment; and (3) research essay. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Supplementary assessment is not available in this unit.
Unit Coordinator(s)
Professor Ben Reilly
Contact hours
This unit is delivered intensively.
Unit Outline
Non-standard teaching period [TS-SUMM-F-2020]
Non-standard teaching period [TS-U-1-2020]
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Books and other material wherever listed may be subject to change. Book lists relating to 'Preliminary reading', 'Recommended reading' and 'Textbooks' are, in most cases, available via the Booktopia Textbook Finder, which has the functionality to search by course code, course, ISBN and title, and may also be posted or available at the appropriate school's administrative offices. Where texts are listed in the unit description above, an asterisk (*) indicates that the book is available in paperback.