Universität Wien FIND

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, changes to courses and exams may be necessary at short notice (e.g. cancellation of on-site teaching and conversion to online exams). Register for courses/exams via u:space, find out about the current status on u:find and on the moodle learning platform. NOTE: Courses where at least one unit is on-site are currently marked "on-site" in u:find.

Further information about on-site teaching and access tests can be found at https://studieren.univie.ac.at/en/info.

210055 SE BAK9: Political Theories and Research on Theories (2018W)

Chaotic, Irrational and Indecisive: Critiques of Democracy in the History of Ideas

6.00 ECTS (2.00 SWS), SPL 21 - Politikwissenschaft
Continuous assessment of course work

A registration via u:space during the registration phase is required. Late registrations are NOT possible.
Students who miss the first lesson without prior notification will lose their seat in the course.

Follow the principles of good scientific practice.

The course instructor may invite students to an oral exam about the student’s written contributions in the course. Plagiarized contributions have the consequence that the course won’t be graded (instead the course will be marked with an ‘X’ in the transcript of records).


Note: The time of your registration within the registration period has no effect on the allocation of places (no first come, first serve).


max. 50 participants
Language: German



DI wtl von 09.10.2018 bis 29.01.2019 09.45-11.15 Ort: Hörsaal 2 (A218), NIG 2.Stock;


Aims, contents and method of the course

Unlike today, since its emergence in Greek antiquity the rule of the people had an extraordinarily bad reputation. For most philosophers and political thinkers, the democratic form of government was conceived of as chaotic, irrational, unjust and inefficient. This seminar focuses on these critiques of democracy and asks: What is the basis for the bad reputation of democracy? What are the most common and long-lasting accusations against democrats? What is presented as an alternative way of organizing a political community? And can we detect patterns and dominant narratives of anti-democratic thinking that persist until today? This class will provide an overview over critiques of democracy and engages with texts by Plato, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Hobbes, James Madison and Alexis de Tocqueville, among others.
This is a seminar in political theory and the history of ideas. It is directed towards students, who are willing and motivated to engage with complex texts and discuss them in class.

By the end of this seminar, students should be able to
1) discuss and explain various critiques of democracy;
2) articulate and deploy complex political concepts to analyze contemporary arguments against democracy;
3) critically assess the adequacy of core political concepts in light of contemporary and historical events;
4) defend and justify written and spoken arguments with strong textual evidence.

Assessment and permitted materials

a) Aktive Teilnahme (10%)
b) Lektürereflexionen (10%)
c) Referat (15%)
d) Gruppenarbeit und Debatte (15%)
e) Exposé für Seminararbeit (10%)
f) Seminararbeit (40%)

Für die Überprüfung der schriftlichen Teilleistungen kann die Plagiatssoftware 'Turnitin' eingesetzt werden.

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

Mindestanforderung ist die termingerechte Abgabe und positive Beurteilung sowohl der mündlichen (aktive Teilnahme, Referat, Gruppenarbeit und Debatte) als auch der schriftlichen Teilleistungen (Lektürereflexionen, Exposé, Seminararbeit).

Examination topics

Pflichtlektüre und Diskussionsergebnisse

Reading list

Zur Vorbereitung:

Roberts, Jennifer Tolbert. 1994. Athens on Trial: The Antidemocratic Tradition in Western Thought. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Cartledge, Paul. 2016. Democracy: A Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Dahl, Robert A. 1989. Democracy and Its Critics. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Association in the course directory

Last modified: Th 18.10.2018 10:28