POLS5301 Democracy in Divided Societies

6 points
(see Summer Timetable)

If this unit does not have an online alternative, then students who are presently unable to enter Western Australia and whose studies would be delayed by an inability to complete this unit, should contact the unit coordinator (details given on this page) to ascertain, on an individual case-by-case basis, if alternate arrangements can be made to support their study in this unit.

Summer teaching periodUWA (Perth)Face to face Predominantly face-to-face. On campus attendance required to complete this unit. May have accompanying resources online.
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 over 2 weeks.
  • 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.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.