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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Kevin Ramsey
BIS 362
Bothell Campus

Contemporary Political Ideas and Ideologies

Explores the juncture of political ideology with political experience in the context of such widespread ideas as nationalism, democracy, and socialism, and their diverse manifestations in contemporary political movements and systems.

Class description

This course will introduce and explore how the notion of democracy is theorized and practiced in contemporary societies. Key question we will explore include: What is democracy and why should we want it? Can democracy exist in the context of persistent social and economic inequality? What is (or should be) the role of citizens in democratic governance? In this course we will learn about different political ideologies such as liberalism, communitarianism, and socialism/marxism, and about the different models of democratic theory and practice these ideologies motivate. We will also examine how these ideas have shaped our political and social institutions, our understandings of these institutions, and our own relationship to them. Specific attention will be given to democracy in local governance, with case study examples from both the Seattle area and around the globe.

Student learning goals

Describe the notion of political ideology and the ways in which different ideologies shape how people experience and make sense of society, politics, and democracy.

Compare and analyze the distinctions between some of the major political ideas and ideologies that have influenced human history from the Enlightenment to the present, including liberalism, conservativism, socialism, and communitarianism.

Examine a political dispute or effort to improve local democracy and compare it to the concepts and theories discussed in class.

Evaluate and explain the social and political implications of your analysis.

Develop and articulate arguments that draw upon evidence and judge among different political perspectives.

General method of instruction

The format of the course will be primarily discussion-based, with extensive collaborative work involved. There will also be opportunities to observe and participate in democratic forums in the Seattle region and online.

Recommended preparation

No prior coursework on this topic is presumed or required. However, you must be willing to tackle challenging readings and participate actively in the class learning experience.

Class assignments and grading

Each week, these themes are explored in the form of readings (from both academic and news media sources) and occasional in-class videos. A number of short writing assignments will be assigned throughout the course, in order for students to demonstrate both their comprehension of and, more importantly, their ability to interrogate the readings. Students will also be expected to either observe or participate in a democratic forum, either in person or online. At least one larger writing assignment (6+ pages) will be assigned. Other assignments may include: participating in an in-class debate, facilitating an in-class discussion, and/or a collaborative group project which examines a democratic “problem” through independent research and engagement with the course readings. Some quizzes and tests may also be assigned as necessary.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Kevin Ramsey
Date: 06/10/2008