Institutions of Democracy

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 4
Monday 13 January 2020
Friday 20 March 2020
15 May 2019


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA L150 Political Economics,
BA L151 Political Economics (Including Year Abroad),
BA L152 Political Economics (Including Placement Year)

Module description

This module is an introduction to the study of (political) institutions. Whenever political actors interact, they do so within the context of certain rules (e.g., voting under a specific electoral system). These "rules of the game", as Douglass North has defined institutions, structure the incentives and behavior of individual political and economic actors. In this module, we will first learn about political and economic interactions in the absence of institutions, and then about how the addition of institutions changes political and economic outcomes. We will also explore the differential effect of various institutions on political and economic behaviour and ultimately policy outcomes. Finally, we will learn why different institutions emerge and what leads rules to change.

Module aims

To provide students with a thorough knowledge and understanding of institutions

Module learning outcomes

At the end of this module, students should understand:

• the logic of collective action
• the different political systems and institutions in different countries
• the consequences of institutions
• the emergence and change of institutions

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

This is a 10-week module based on a one hour lecture and a one hour class per week


  • Carey, John M; Shugart, Matthew Soberg. (1995-12) 'Incentives to cultivate a personal vote: A rank ordering of electoral formulas', in Electoral Studies. vol. 14 (4) , pp.417-439
  • Shepsle, Kenneth A. (c2010) Analyzing politics: rationality, behavior, and institutions, New York: W.W. Norton.
  • Hadfield, G. K.; Weingast, B. R. (2012) 'What Is Law? A Coordination Model of the Characteristics of Legal Order', in Journal of Legal Analysis. vol. 4 (2) , pp.471-514
  • Linz, Juan. (no date) 'The Perils of Presidentialism', in Journal of Democracy: The Johns Hopkins University Press. vol. 1 (1) , pp.51-69
  • Proksch, Sven-Oliver; Slapin, Jonathan B. (2012) 'Institutional Foundations of Legislative Speech', in American Journal of Political Science. vol. 56 (3) , pp.520-537
  • Meguid, Bonnie M. (2005) 'Competition between Unequals: The Role of Mainstream Party Strategy in Niche Party Success', in The American Political Science Review. vol. 99 (3) , pp.347-359
  • Huber, John D. (1996) 'The Vote of Confidence in Parliamentary Democracies', in The American Political Science Review. vol. 90 (2) , pp.269-282
  • Diermeier, D.; Krehbiel, K. (2003) 'Institutionalism as a Methodology', in Journal of Theoretical Politics. vol. 15 (2) , pp.123-144
  • Horowitz, Donald L. (1990) 'Comparing Democratic Systems', in Journal of Democracy. vol. 1 (4) , pp.73-79
  • Miller, Gary J. (2005) 'The political evolution of principal-agent models', in Annual Review of Political Science. vol. 8 (1) , pp.203-225
  • North, Douglass C. (1990) Institutions, institutional change, and economic performance, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. vol. The Political economy of institutions and decisions
  • Milgrom, Paul R.; North, Douglass C.; Weingast, Barry R. (1990) The role of institutions in the revival of trade : the Law Merchant, private judges, and the Champagne Fairs.
  • Kathleen Bawn. (2012) 'A Theory of Political Parties: Groups, Policy Demands and Nominations in American Politics', in Perspectives on Politics: American Political Science Association. vol. 10 (3) , pp.571-597
  • Acemoglu, Daron; Johnson, Simon; Robinson, James. (2005) 'The Rise of Europe: Atlantic Trade, Institutional Change, and Economic Growth', in The American Economic Review. vol. 95 (3) , pp.546-579

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework In Class Test 40%
Coursework Essay Proposal 19/02/2020 20%
Coursework Essay 18/03/2020 40%

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Svenja Krauss
Module Supervisor: Svenja Krauss svenja.krauss@essex.ac.uk Module Administrator: Nicola Rowley, govquery@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

Dr Arzu Kibris
Associate Professor
Available via Moodle
Of 60 hours, 60 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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