A classic problem in democratic thought pertains to the justification of democracy: Why, if at all, is democratic governance desirable? But the practice of democracy, and representative democracy in particular, raises many other philosophical questions, too. For example, what does it mean for elected officials to represent voters or the people? What exactly do citizens do when they exercise voting rights, and what is the function election? How might one best translate citizens’ votes into parliamentary seats? Should disadvantaged groups be afforded reserved seats in parliament? What, if any, is the distinctive function of political parties in a system of representative government?

This course engages with these and related questions, surveying recent work in anglophone, democratic theory. It opens with a survey of different conceptions and justifications of democracy, and then turns to a number of particular debates and institutions that are characteristic of, or debated within, contemporary representative democracies and/or democratic theory. In particular, the second part examines debates on the proper delimitation of the demos, it looks at the nature of the right to vote, the function of elections, and it examines the controversy on obligatory voting. Further themes covered include the ethics of electoral systems, the nature of representation, the function of political parties, and sortition.