States, Nations and Democracy - PO951

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
(version 2)
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7 20 (10) DR P Dardanelli







The module draws from comparative politics, international relations, and political thought to analyse the past, present, and future of the democratic national state, the dominant form of political system in today’s world. It addresses questions such as: Why are some states federal and others unitary? What explains the resilience of nationalism? Does economic integration leads to political disintegration? Why has regional integration gone much further in Europe than elsewhere? Is multi-national democracy possible? The module first charts the emergence of the modern state and its transformation into a national and democratic form of political system. Subsequently, it explores some key aspects of the formation, structuring, restructuring, and termination of states such as the unitary/federal dichotomy, processes of devolution, the challenge of secession, the question of the connections between the economic environment and the number and size of states, the phenomenon of supra-state regional integration, and the connections between nationality and democracy. It concludes by assessing the challenges facing the democratic national state in the 21st century and their likely trajectory in the foreseeable future.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

11 two-hour lecture/seminars

Method of assessment

100% coursework (quiz based on weekly seminar readings (15%), essay of up to 2500 words (35%), essay of up to 4000 words (50%))

Indicative reading

Poggi, Gianfranco. 2014. The Nation-State. In Daniele Caramani (ed.), Comparative Politics. 3rd ed. Oxford University Press
Sørensen, Georg. 2014. Globalization and the Nation-State. In Daniele Caramani (ed.), Comparative Politics. 3rd ed. Oxford University Press

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module students will be able to:
Apply the concepts, theories, methods of comparative politics to the study of the connections between statehood, nationality, and democracy.
Identify the main factors that account for the historical rise of the modern state as the dominant form of political organisation.
Understand the process through which the modern state has acquired national and democratic characters.
Understand the main aspects of the process of state formation, structuring, restructuring, and termination across space and time and their connections with nationality and democracy.
Identify the key contemporary challenges to the democratic national state and their likely future trajectory.

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