Fall 2018  |  POL 5403 Section 001: Constitutions, Democracy, and Rights: Comparative Perspectives (33555)

Class Component:
3 Credits
Grading Basis:
Student Option
Instructor Consent:
No Special Consent Required
Instruction Mode:
In Person Term Based
Meets With:
POL 4403W Section 001
Times and Locations:
Regular Academic Session
09/04/2018 - 12/12/2018
Mon, Wed 01:00PM - 02:15PM
UMTC, West Bank
Blegen Hall 415
Enrollment Status:
Open (0 of 2 seats filled)
Also Offered:
Course Catalog Description:
Theory/practice of constitutionalism in different countries. Conceptual/normative inquiry between constitutionalism, rule of law, and democracy. Origins/role of constitutions. Relevance of courts with constitutional review powers: U.S., Germany, Japan, Hungary, Russia, South Africa, Nigeria.
Class Description:
From Iraq to India, Spain to South Sudan, Canada to Colombia, fundamental political questions have been debated, and often decided, in recent years in constitutional terms. Meanwhile, here at home, the constitution is invoked at almost every turn to endorse or condemn different policies. Is this obsession with constitutions undermining democracy, or is adhering to constitutional terms the best way to safeguard rights and to achieve successful democracies? This course centers on this question as it moves from debates over how constitutional drafting processes should be structured and how detailed constitutions should be, to the risks and benefits of different institutional structures (federal v. unitary, and the distribution of powers between the executive, legislature and judiciary), to which rights (if any) should be constitutionalized and when and why different rights are protected, and closes with a discussion of what rules should guide constitutional amendment, rewrite, and withdrawal (secession). For each topic, we will compare how these issues have been resolved in the U.S. with alternative approaches in other countries. In addition to occasional discussion of examples from the usual suspects in comparative constitutionalism (namely Germany, Canada, and South Africa), the course incorporates material on a wide variety of other countries around the globe. The goal is not only to expose students to the variety of ways, successful or unsuccessful, that other political communities have addressed these issues, but also, and thereby, to gain a more contextualized and clearer understanding of the pros and cons of the U.S. model. This course is writing intensive and, as a 4xxx-level course, offers senior paper credit for Poli Sci majors (though the course is very much open to non-majors). Crafting a written, evidence-based argument that speaks to broader debates about the origins, nature and/or implications of political decisions and outcomes is central to Political Science. To hone this skill, the instructor guides students through the steps of writing an independent research paper, with writing and research tutorials and class activities integrated into the course every few weeks.
15 Pages Writing Per Term
1 Exam(s)
1 Paper(s)
10 Quiz(zes)
Other Workload: The paper assignment will be cumulative, with the various steps in the research and writing process due across the term, and the final, polished version due during finals week.
Instructor Supplied Information Last Updated:
28 October 2017

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