POLS1101 The Liberal Democratic State

6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 1UWA (Perth)Face to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 1 core unit in the Political Science and International Relations; Philosophy, Politics and Economics major sequences
  • The area of knowledge for this unit is Society and Culture
  • Category A broadening unit for Bachelor of Arts students where relevant according to the broadening requirements for each student
  • Level 1 elective
Liberal democracy is now the preferred political system and professed destination of most of the world's states. But this is a very recent development. Until a couple of decades ago, communism was a major alternative on the world stage; earlier in the century fascism was also a serious rival, and before the twentieth century very few people had anything favourable to say about democracy in modern states. This unit examines this potent political force from two main perspectives. It traces the foundational ideas of liberal democracy, such as limited government, personal liberty, individual rights, political equality, majority rule and political participation, together with the development of these ideas by major thinkers. It looks also at the some criticisms of these liberal-democratic ideals. The unit then goes on to compare the different ways in which these principles are incorporated in actual political systems—those that emphasise liberty (e.g. the United States), those that emphasise majority rule (e.g. Britain), and the Australian case that is often seen as a blend of the American and British systems. We then move on to democracy in Asia by examining the political systems of Japan and Indonesia before concluding with China's alternative to liberal democracy. The key question here is whether Asian forms of politics and democracy offer an alternative to traditional Western types of liberal-democracy.

In general, the unit equips students with an understanding of the ideas and institutions that comprise liberal democracy today, it encourages them to reflect on which institutions best realise its key principles, and it requires the student to think of possible alternatives to the liberal-democratic model.
Students are able to (1) identify and describe the key normative ideas within liberal democracy; some differing interpretations of these ideas; and major criticisms of these ideas; (2) identify and describe links between liberal democratic ideas and major figures in the history of political ideas; (3) identify and explain some major relationships between key political ideas within the complex system of ideas comprising liberal democracy; (4) explain some major links between liberal democratic ideas and the design and operation of real world political systems; (5) describe the key features of a range of political systems among advanced industrial democracies; (6) understand the rationale for, and apply, a comparative perspective to the analysis of political systems, and identify key differences among democratic states; (7) demonstrate a basic appreciation of the contested nature of knowledge of political phenomena, and an ability to evaluate interpretations of political issues and events in the light of relevant interests and values; (8) demonstrate a basic understanding of the distinctive contribution of government to social order; (9) analyse a political argument, identifying its main components and the links between them; (10) develop appropriate interpersonal and oral presentation skills; and (11) conduct research and analyse evidence from a range of relevant sources, and construct a logical and persuasive argument.
Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) written assignments; (2) tutorial presentation and participation; and (3) examination. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Supplementary assessment is not available in this unit except in the case of a bachelor's pass degree student who has obtained a mark of 45 to 49 overall and is currently enrolled in this unit, and it is the only remaining unit that the student must pass in order to complete their course.
Unit Coordinator(s)
Dr Jordan Tchilingirian
Contact hours
3 hours per week
  • 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.