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This module introduces students to government and politics, and focuses on the key institutions to be found in modern political systems, what they contribute to processes of governance, and how power is distributed across and among those institutions. It interrogates the power of the principal political actors in Irish and European contexts and provides a comparative theoretical approach to understanding the role, function and relative power of these institutional sites. It encourages students to think about how institutional design impacts on politics and policy-making. Studying political institutions reveals much about where power is concentrated and how political actors interact to produce policy outcomes and shape the world we live in. Political institutions are thus formal mechanisms and instruments employed to manage power relations and enable decision making at local, regional, national and international level.
By formal political institutions we refer to, for example, constitutions and laws, executives and legislatures, parties and elections. These institutions regulate, channel and shape interests, identities and ideologies in political communities. Yet they also reflect, and often stabilise existing power relations. The module will begin with an overview of modern politics and government. It will then examine executive prerogatives and power, the role of parliaments, electoral systems, party systems, interest groups, and societal cleavages and the different ways in which these contribute to and influence both politics and society in Ireland and Europe.
This module focuses in a critical way on how the choice of political institutions at the level of the nation-state can impact on the capacity of nation-states to govern and to achieve key objectives, including equality and participation. Politics and political systems have been characterised in recent years by distinct modes of flux, with an increasingly discernible mood which political scientists refer to as ‘anti-politics, ‘anti-system’ and ‘anti-establishment’. The most obvious manifestation of that mood has been the drop in electoral support for established parties of the centre, a corresponding rise in support for populist right and left wing alternatives and, in some jurisdictions, significant protest movements. This course will highlight these important contemporary phenomena as it evaluates the significance of political institutions in contemporary politics.
In particular, the course aims to:
- introduce students to modern government and politics;
- develop analytic and evaluative skills for examining the processes of politics and government;
- provide specific knowledge of the component elements of political systems in the organisation of Irish and European politics;
- provide a broad understanding of the operation of, and trends in, politics and government and allow students to compare and contrast the different forms of governmental systems within different modern states;
-understand and identity the various forms of civic participation and representation within Irish and European Politics.