States, Nations and Democracy - POLI9510

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2022 to 2023
Spring Term 7 20 (10) Paolo Dardanelli checkmark-circle


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.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 22
Private study hours: 178
Total study hours: 200


Optional module for all PDips/MAs offered by the School of Politics and International Relations

Method of assessment

Quiz 20 questions covering core readings over the term, 15%
Essay 1, 2000 words, 35%
Essay 2, 3500 words, 50%

Reassessment methods: 100% coursework

Indicative reading

Reading list (Indicative list, current at time of publication. Reading lists will be published annually)

Alesina, Alberto and Enrico Spolaore. 2003. The Size of Nations. Cambridge, Ma, USA: MIT Press

Colomer, Josep. 2007. Great Empires, Small Nations – The Uncertain Future of the Sovereign State. London: Routledge

Dahl, Robert. 1971. Polyarchy. New Haven, Ct, USA: Yale University Press

Ertman, Thomas. 1997. Birth of the Leviathan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Greenfeld, Liah. 1992. Nationalism – Five Roads to Modernity. Cambridge, Ma, USA: Harvard University Press

Hirst, Paul and Graham Thompson. 1995. Globalization and the Future of the Nation State. Economy and Society 24/3: 408-42

Riker, William. 1964. Federalism – Origin, Operation, Significance. Boston, Ma, USA: Little, brown

Tilly, Charles. 1990. Coercion, Capital, and European States, AD990-1990. Oxford: Blackwell

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes. On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

8.1 Apply the concepts, theories, methods of comparative politics to the study of the connections between statehood, nationality, and democracy

8.2 Identify the main factors that account for the historical rise of the modern state as the dominant form of political organisation

8.3 Understand the process through which the modern state has acquired national and democratic characters

8.4 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

8.5 Identify the key contemporary challenges to the democratic national state and their likely future trajectory

The intended generic learning outcomes. On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

9.1 General research skills, especially bibliographic and computing skills

9.2 gather, organize and deploy evidence, data and information from a variety of secondary and some primary sources

9.3 identify, investigate, analyse, formulate and advocate solutions to problems

9.4 develop reasoned arguments, synthesise relevant information and exercise critical judgement

9.5 reflect on, and manage, their own learning and seek to make use of constructive feedback from peers and staff to enhance their performance and personal skills

9.6 manage their own learning self-critically

9.7 communicate effectively and fluently in speech and writing (including, where appropriate, the use of IT); organise information clearly and coherently; use communication and information technology for the retrieval and presentation of information, including, where appropriate, statistical or numerical information

9.8 produce written documents; undertake online research; communicate using e-mail; process information using databases

9.9 explore personal strengths and weaknesses; time management; review working environment (especially student-staff relationship); develop autonomy in learning; work independently, demonstrating initiative and self-organisation. Important research management skills include the setting of appropriate timescales for different stages of the research with clear starting and finishing dates (through a dissertation or internship report); presentation of a clear statement of the purposes and expected results of the research; and developing appropriate means of estimating and monitoring resources and use of time

9.10 identify and define problems; explore alternative solutions and discriminate between them


  1. Credit level 7. Undergraduate or postgraduate masters level module.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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