Public Policy and Democracy

Course Website for the Master's module Public Policy and Democracy (PAIR6009) in Fall 2014 at University of Southampton. Designed and taught by Justin Murphy and Gerry Stoker.

View the Project on GitHub jmrphy/course_public_policy

Course Details


Part 1: Democracy and Public Policy?

Part 2: Policy for Democracy

Part 3: Connecting Theory and Practice
Week 10. Presentations I 01/12/14
Week 11. Presentations II 08/12/14
Week 12. Closing Session 05/01/15

Course Details

Module Name: Public Policy and Democracy (PAIR6009 at University of Southampton)

Lecturer: Justin Murphy, PhD
Twitter: @jmrphy
Office: Building 58, Room 3083
Contact and feedback hours:
Monday 2pm - 4pm
Friday 2pm - 4pm

Lecturer: Gerry Stoker, PhD
Twitter: @ProfStoker
Office: Building 58, Room 3099
Contact and feedback hours:
By email.

Lecture: Monday 3pm - 5pm
Tutorial: Tuesday 12pm - 1pm

Aims and Objectives

This module provides a master's level introduction to complex relationship between democracy and public policy. Can democracies deliver long-term policy making? Does policy making rely on the exclusion of certain interests and therefore run counter to democratic demands? Are the complex processes of delivering policy such that public service provision can meet democratic norms? The course will draw upon real-world examples to illuminate academic debates, encouraging students to make links between theory and practice.

The course aims to familiarise students with key arguments about inclusion and exclusion in public policymaking, and to give them the tools required to critically analyse them. The theoretical/conceptual material is complemented by empirical cases studies of real-world issues in public policy. Where appropriate, students will also be introduced to academic scholarship which sometimes challenges the intentions and expectations of bureaucrats, activists, policymakers, and mass publics. The case studies will make use of primary policy documents – such as government white papers, parliamentary papers, think tank reports etc. – which help contextualize the academic material, and expose students to ‘real world’ policy making.

Course Structure

The module is delivered through a series of 12 two-hour seminars. Across the span of twelve 2-hour seminar sessions, a range of topics related to the overarching theme will be explored. The co-convenors will outline alternative viewpoints each week, encouraging students to engage deeply and critically with the material. This handbook outlines a series of questions for discussion in the seminar, as well as specific questions/tasks in relation to the case material. In preparation for each seminar, please attempt to read as many of the core readings as possible as well as looking at and/or helping to develop the case materials for each week, as these will form the basis of discussions. We have endeavoured to make sure that most are available electronically so they will be easily accessible. The additional readings are provided for each week if you wish to read further into a topic, such as in relation to the assessed essay or the case study.

This handbook is your guide to the material covered on the course, but please check Blackboard regularly for new materials that have been added (readings and multimedia will be uploaded there) and announcements (which will also be sent via email).

Prerequisites and Restrictions

There are no prerequisites or restrictions.

Summary of teaching and learning outcomes

By the end of the course, you should be able to:

Having successfully completed the module, you will be able to demonstrate:

Academic Integrity

The University of Southampton takes cases of plagiarism very seriously. Plagiarism is representing the work of others as your own without proper acknowledgement of the original source. Plagiarism is not only dishonest but impedes your learning as it is indicative of a failure to understand the material.

The University of Southampton’s policy on plagiarism can be found here.

The penalties for plagiarism range from resubmission of the piece of work to expulsion or exclusion from the University in very serious cases. If you have any doubts regarding how to reference or whether a source should be referenced speak to either of the module convenors immediately. It is always better to seek help than risk the penalties.

Feedback to and from Students

'Feedback' refers to any instance in which you receive information about how well you understand the material, how successfully you are progressing in the module, or how to improve your performance. Feedback is continuous and does not refer merely to comments on your assessed work (but certainly includes that). Other instances in which you receive feedback include: seminar discussions, question time during lectures, interaction with others outside the classroom, replies to email questions you send me, discussions with me during my office hours.

Module evaluation forms will be distributed at the end of the semester. We welcome informal feedback at any time.


There is no single book for purchase. Key readings are available online, so there should be no difficulty in preparing for each seminar. You will be expected to help develop the case materials for many of the seminars by identifying relevant policy documents, white papers, newspaper articles or multimedia clips in relation to the seminar content. The rationale behind this is that you will need to engage in greater depth with the themes and ideas in the module, and that you will also develop your analytical and research skills. An important additional benefit is that this material will prove very useful in developing your work for assessment.

The reading for each week is organised with a series of ‘core’ readings, which you should attempt to read a selection of, to build on the material covered in the lecture, and ‘further’ readings that allow you to explore the topics that interest you further. These are provided to give you choice in your reading. Please prepare for the seminars by reading the ‘case materials’ and by searching for and identifying additional material from sources such as policy documents, white papers and newspaper articles.

Where possible we have sought to include hyperlinks to e-books, journal articles and other publications to ensure that these are easily available, and so that that you can dedicate your time to reading them rather than searching for them. A small number of the books are not available in an electronic format. If any of the hyperlinks are broken, please let me know immediately.

For classic introductions to public policy, see any one of the following texts.


The mode of assessment for the module is as follows:

The essay will make up 40% of the final grade. The case study will account for 40% and the presentation is worth 20% of the final grade.


Submit an electronic copy of your essay via Turnitin to the Blackboard site on Monday, November 3.

The subject and title of your case study must be agreed with one or both of the co-conveners by 3.00pm on November 10, 2014. This can be done via email correspondence or via appointment. You will give a presentation about your case study during the seminar on December 1, 2014.

The completed case study must be submitted via Turnitin to the Blackboard site on Monday, January 12, 2015.

Extensions can only be arranged by meeting with the MSc Coordinator (Dr Pia Riggirozzi) in advance. Coursework submitted late without an agreed extension will face the appropriate penalty as outlined in the Postgraduate Handbook.

Style Guidelines

All coursework must be typed or word processed, 1.5 line-spaced, contain a bibliography, and use the Harvard style of referencing.

Essay Questions

For your essay you are required to respond to one of the following prompts. You should write a maximum of 4000 words (excluding references).

Case Studies

The case study involves an in-depth analysis of a selected policy issue or program, providing an assessment of the ways in which the issue or program enables or discourages public inclusion. The key point is that you must engage with empirical data, "testing" an argument or hypothesis you've developed throughout our discussions against the historical record. This can be through qualitative comparisons, analytical historical narratives, quantitative analysis, or any other legitimate research method, but it must be an effort to explain empirical data with an argument, theory, or "model." In particular, case studies should explore one of the key themes developed in the course.


The seminars, other than the introductory week and the sessions devoted to student presentations, will be led by one of the two lecturers on an alternating basis, engendering distinct orientations to the various themes. This approach will enable deep and critical engagement in the themes under discussion. The programme is as follows.

Week 1. Introduction

Week 2. Contemporary Public Policy in Historical Perspective I

What was the traditional relationship between public policy and capitalism from the industrial revolution to the settlements after World War II? What is Polanyi's famous "double movement?" What is "Keynesianism?" What is "embedded liberalism"? Does the relationship between markets and public policymaking seem different than it is now?

Required Readings

Suggested Readings

Week 3. Contemporary Public Policy in Historical Perspective II

What is "neoliberalism" and how does it contrast with embedded liberalism and the Keynesian "social pacts" which were the norm of the post-war period? What is the nature of public policymaking under neoliberalism? Who has benefitted from neoliberal policies, and who has been harmed? How does the history of the neoliberal policy project help explain the contemporary politics of policymaking, for instance policymaking before and after the 2008 financial crisis?

Suggested Readings

Week 4. Public Management and Democracy

Can public service bureaucracies realistically be controlled by democratic forces? Can public managers be carriers of democratic values? Is the concept of public value helpful, flawed or incoherent? What institutional measures and others changes would support the delivering of public services able to meet the challenges laid out in the public value argument?

Required Reading

Suggested Reading

Background Reading

Other relevant and related books and authors:

Case Study Options

Choose a public service and look at the application of public value thinking to it. What are the chances of success?

Week 5. Long-Term Thinking in Public Policy and Democracy

Democracy is often accused on being inherently myopic but why is that? How to define what is long-term policy making? Is it the case that democracies are short-term in their policy-making compared to other forms of government (authoritarian regimes for example?) What institutional, process and power dynamics might support greater prospects fro long-term policy-making?

Required Reading

Suggested Reading

Alan Jacobs and J. Scott Matthews (2012) ‘Do citizens discount the future? ‘British Journal of Political Science.

H. Ward (2012) The Future of Democracy in the Face of Climate Change

M. Shultz (2012) A return to long-term thinking Speech on Europe, Berlin, 9 November 2012 by Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament

Mike Hulme (2012) What sorts of Knowledge for What sort of politics?

James Lovelock (2010) ‘Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change’ The Guardian, Monday 29 March 2010

Alt, James E. and David Dreyer. Transparency (2006) Political Polarization, and Political Budget Cycles in OECD Countries, American Journal of Political Science, 50(3), pp. 530-50.

Anderson, Victor (2011) Addressing short-termism in government and politics, The Guardian, May 2, 2011

Background Reading

Cloughterty, Tom (2011) Tackling short-termism, The Adam Smith Institute, Wednesday August 3, 2011.

Ekeli, Kristian (2009) Constitutional Experiments: Representing Future Generations Through Submajority Rules, The Journal of Political Philosophy, 17(4), pp. 440-61.

Hobson, Kersty and Simon Niemeyer (2011) Public responses to climate change: The role of deliberation in building capacity for adaptive action, Global Environmental Change, 21(3), pp. 957-71.

Jacobs, Alan (2008) The Politics of When: Redistribution, Investment and Policy Making for the Long Term, British Journal of Political Science, 38, pp. 193-220.

Nordhaus, William D. (1975) The Political Business Cycle, Review of Economic Studies, 42(2), pp. 169-90.

Pal, Leslie A. and Kent R. Weaver (2003) The Government Taketh Away. The Politics of Pain in the United States and Canada, Washington: Georgetown University Press.

Case Study Options

Choose a policy and examine the prospects for long-term policy making in that area. What factors would make the prospects of long-term policy successfully emerging?

Week 6. The Public Opinion and Public Policy Nexus

Does public opinion drive public policy? Does public opinion react to public policy? Is this enough to constitute democracy?

Required Readings

Suggested Readings

Shapiro, Robert Y., and Lawrence R. Jacobs. (2001). ‘Presidents and Polling: Politicians, Pandering, and the Study of Democratic Responsiveness.’ Presidential Studies Quarterly 31(1): 150-167.

Wright, Gerald C, Robert S Erikson, and John P McIver. 1987. “Public Opinion and Policy Liberalism in the American States.” American Journal of Political Science 31(4): 980.

Wlezien, Christopher. 1995. “The Public as Thermostat: Dynamics of Preferences for Spending.” American Journal of Political Science 39(4): 981.

Hobolt, Sara B. and Robert Klemmemsen. (2005). ‘Responsive government? Public opinion and government policy preferences in Britain and Denmark.’ Political Studies 53: 379-402.

Hellwig, Timothy. 2008. “Globalization, Policy Constraints, and Vote Choice.” The Journal of Politics 70(04): 1128.

Kelly, Nathan J. 2005. “Political Choice, Public Policy, and Distributional Outcomes.” American Journal of Political Science 49(4): 865–80.

Matsubayashi, Tetsuya, and Rene R Rocha. 2012. “Racial Diversity and Public Policy in the States.” Political Research Quarterly 65(3): 600–614.

Page, Benjamin I, and Robert Y Shapiro. 1983. “Effects of Public Opinion on Policy.” The American political science review 77(1): 175.

Week 7. Does “Fast Thinking” Undermine the Prospects for Both Democracy and Public Policy?

Questions to consider: Does the distinction between fast and slow thinking in Daniel Kahneman’s work hold? Why is fast thinking so dominant? Do you agree that too much fast thinking carries costs for policy making? What institutional or other devices could be developed to limit the impact of fast thinking and create the opportunity for more slow thinking in public policy formulation?


Required Reading

Gerry Stoker, Colin Hay and Matt Barr “Exploring the Consequences of Fast Thinking about Politics” Paper for the PSA/University of Kent conference on “CITIZENS AND POLITICS IN BRITAIN TODAY: STILL A ‘CIVIC CULTURE’?” 26th September 2013, London.

Andrei Shleife “Psychologists at the Gate: A Review of Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow”

Suggested Reading

Daniel Kahneman (2011) Thinking Fast and Slow London: Allen Lane.

Reviews of Kahneman:

Galen Strawson (2011) ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman – review’ The Guardian, Tuesday 13 December 2011.

William Easterly (2011) “Thinking, Fast and Slow Review” Financial Times, November 5th, 2011.

Evans, Jonathan St. B. T. 2012. Questions and challenges for the new psychology of reasoning. Thinking & Reasoning 18(1):5-31.

Lupia, Arthur. 1994. Shortcuts versus encyclopedias: information and voting behavior in California Insurance Reform Elections. American Political Science Review 88(1):63-76.

Marcus, George, Russell W. Neuman and Michal Mackuen. 2000. Affective Intelligence and Political Judgment. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Moshman, David. 2000. Diversity in reasoning and rationality: metacognitive and developmental considerations. Behavioural and Brain Sciences 23: 689-90.

Osman, Magda. 2004. An evaluation of dual-process theories of reasoning. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 11: 988-1010.

Stanovich, Keith and Richard F. West. 2000. Individual difference in reasoning: implications for the rationality debate?. Behavioural and Brain Sciences 23:645–726.

Stanovich, Keith and Maggie E. Toplak. 2012. Defining features versus incidental correlates of Type 1 and Type 2 processing. Mind Soc 11:3-13.

Background Reading

Chambers, Simone. 2003. Deliberative Democratic Theory. Annual Review of Political Science 6:307-26.

Goodin, Robert and Simon Niemeyer. 2003. When does Deliberation Begin? Internal Reflection versus Public discussion in Deliberative Democracy. Political Studies 51(4):627-49.

John, Peter, Sarah Cotterill, Alice Moseley, Liz Richardson, Graham Smith, Gerry Stoker and Corrine Wales. 2011. Nudge, Nudge, Think Think: Experimenting with ways to change Civic Behaviour. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Kahneman, Daniel. 2011. Thinking, Fast and Slow. London: Penguin. Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness.

See also Nudge Blog, building on publication.

Cass Sunstein Simpler: The future of government, Simon and Schuster, 2013. (Provides an update on his thinking; see also this on The Guardian)

A well used and important early report on the approach by UK’s Institute for government think tank: MINDSPACE.

Case Study options

Explore the implications of the systematic errors in human cognition for the construction of public policy in one area and then look at the devices available to try to correct those errors.

Week 8. Institutional Threats to Democratic Policymaking: Globalization, Media, Inequality

Required Readings

Suggested Readings

Freeland, Chrystia. 2012. Plutocrats: the Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else. London: Penguin UK.

Pollack, Mark A. 1997. “Delegation, Agency, and Agenda Setting in the European Community.” International Organization 51(1): 99–134. Available here.

Sattler, Thomas, Patrick T Brandt, and John R. Freeman. 2010. “Democratic Accountability in Open Economies.” Quarterly Journal of Political Science (5): 71–97.

Cai, Hongbin, and Daniel Treisman. 2005. “Does Competition for Capital Discipline Governments? Decentralization, Globalization, and Public Policy.” The American Economic Review 95(3): 817–30.

Cerny, Philip G, and Mark Evans. 2004. “Globalisation and Public Policy Under New Labour.” Policy Studies 25(1): 51–65.

Kern, H L, and J Hainmueller. 2009. “Opium for the Masses: How Foreign Media Can Stabilize Authoritarian Regimes.” Political Analysis 17(4): 377–99.

Warren, T Camber. 2014. “Not by the Sword Alone: Soft Power, Mass Media, and the Production of State Sovereignty.” International Organization 68(01): 111–41.

Petrova, Maria. 2008. “Inequality and Media Capture.” Journal of Public Economics 92(1-2): 183–212.

Week 9. Competing Theories of Democratic Failure and Designing Policies for Democratic Reform

Can we design policies to support, sustain or improve democratic practice? What are the failings of democracy that policy should be trying to address? Can we expect political elites to be able to lead a process of reform of the politics they have largely constructed? Your policy for reforming democracy should match your theory of democracy. Do you agree?

Required Reading

Stoker, Gerry (2012) Building a New Politics?, London: British Academy.

Suggested Reading

Reilly, B. (2006), Democracy and diversity: Political engineering in the Asia-Pacific (Oxford, Oxford University Press).

Reynolds, A. (2010), Designing democracy in a dangerous world (Oxford, Oxford University Press).

Sartori, G. (1994), Comparative constitutional engineering: An inquiry into structures, incentives, and outcomes (London, Macmillan).

Smith, G. (2009), Democratic innovations: Designing institutions for citizen participation (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press).

Sunstein, C. R. (2007) 2.0 (Princeton NJ, Princeton University Press).

E. Theiss-Morse and J. Hibbing (2005) ‘Citizenship and Citizen Engagement’ Annual Review of Political Science 8:227-49.

G. Smith (2005) Beyond the Ballot Box.

Almond, G. and Verba, S. (1963), The civic culture: Political attitudes and democracy in five nations (Princeton NJ, Princeton University Press).

Birch, S. and Allen, N. (2009), ‘How honest do politicians need to be?’, The Political Quarterly, 81: 49-56.

Fishkin, J. S. (1997), The voice of the people: Public opinion and democracy (New Haven CT, Yale University Press).

Fung, A. and Wright, E. O. (2003), Deepening Democracy: Institutional innovations in empowered participatory governance (London, Verso).

Geissel, Brigitte and Kenneth Newton, eds. 2012. Evaluating Democratic Innovations. London: Routledge.

Alonso, S and Keane, J and Merkel, W (2011) The Future of Representative Democracy , Cambridge: CUP

Background Reading

Cameron, D (2010) Rebuilding trust in politics Speech delivered February 8 2010.

Clegg, N. (2010), ‘Full text: Clegg reform speech’, BBC News, 19 May 2010..

Flinders, M. (2010), ‘In defence of politics’, The Political Quarterly, 81: 309-326.

Fishkin, J. S., He, B., Luskin, R. C. and Siu, A. (2010), ‘Deliberative democracy in an unlikely place: Deliberative polling in China’, British Journal of Political Science, 40: 435-448.

Gibson, R. (2009), ‘New media and the revitalisation of politics’, Representation, 45: 289-300.

Hibbing, J. and Theiss-Morse, E. (2001), ‘The means is the end’, in J. Hibbing and E. Theiss-Morse (eds.), What is about government that Americans dislike? (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press), 243-250.

Hibbing, J. and Theiss-Morse, E. (2002), Stealth democracy: Americans’ beliefs about how government should work (New York, Cambridge University Press).

John,P., Liu,H. and Fieldhouse,E. (2010) The Civic Culture in Britain and America Fifty Years On, working paper from the Institute for Social Change, University of Manchester.

Keaney, E. and Rogers, B. (2006), A citizen’s duty: Voter inequality and the case for compulsory turnout, London, Institute of Public Policy Research.

Lijphart, A. (1977), Democracy in plural societies: A comparative exploration (New Haven CT, Yale University Press).

Neblo, M.; Esterling, K., Kennedy,R.,Lazer,D., Sokhey,A ( 2010) Who Wants to Deliberate-And Why? American Political Science Review 104:3, 566-583

Norris, P. (2008), Driving democracy: Do power-sharing institutions work? (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press).

Norris, P. (2011), Democratic deficit: Critical citizens revisited (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press).

Pateman, C. (1970), Participation and democratic theory (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press).

Pattie, C., Seyd, P. and Whiteley, P. (2004) Citizenship in Britain: Values, participation and democracy (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press).

Power Inquiry (2006), The report of Power: An independent inquiry into Britain’s democracy.

Theiss-Morse, E. and Hibbing, J. (2005), ‘Citizenship and civic engagement’ in Annual Review of Political Science, 8: 227-49.

Verba, S., Schlozman, K. and Brady, H. (1995), Voice and Equality (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press).

Case Study Options

Choose a setting of democratic practice and examine how it could be reformed or look at a reform practice in action and investigate its supporters, opponents and prospects.