74783 - Citzens, Elections, Parties

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

This course focuses on the analysis of political behaviours and their effects on the process of representation, also in comparative perspective. It does so by paying attention to eelections and the main actors of modern democracies, that is citizns and political parties. By the end of classes students: - know the basic terms of the political science debate on the functions of parties, electoral behaviour, electoral campaigns in contemporary democracies; - know the developments and current configurations of the main democratic political systems; - is able to plan and realise simple empirical research works on political parties, elctoral campaigns, political participation.

Course contents

The transformations (or crisis, according to someone) of representative politics are one of the most topical issues of today's public debate in advanced democracies. This course focuses on the main actors (citizens and parties) and processes (elections) of representative politics. In the first part it deals with the main concepts related to the organizational structure of parties and their recent developments and crisis of legitimacy. Then, the transformations of contemporary European party systems will be discussed, with specific attention devoted to the emergence of populist parties and leaders, starting with the very definition of the contested concept of populism. In the third part, the main interpretations of electoral behaviors (the way in which demand and supply are matched on the "political market") will be introduced. During the course, students will be invited to carry out a field research on the current transformations of Italian political parties, seen from the perspectives of local representatives and activists.

Please note that this is a master-degree course. For this reason, students who have never taken an introductory political science course, are warmly invited to catch up with the most basic concept of this discipline (State, democracy, parties, party systems, electoral systems, etc.) referring to a handbook, such as the one edited by Salvatore Vassallo "Sistemi politici comparati", Bologna, Il Mulino, 2016.


For students recognized as “frequentanti” a detailed syllabus will be circulated at the beginning of classes.


For other students ("non frequentanti"):


- Massari, Oreste. 2004. I partiti politici nelle democrazie contemporanee. Roma-Bari: Laterza (capitoli 1-4).

- Gerbaudo, Paolo. 2018. The Digital Party: Political Organisation and Online Democracy. London: Pluto Press.

- Mudde, Cas, e Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser. 2013. «Populism». In The Oxford Handbook of Political Ideologies, a cura di Michael Freeden e Marc Stears, 493–510. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

- Kaltwasser, Cristóbal Rovira. 2014. «The Responses of Populism to Dahl’s Democratic Dilemmas». Political Studies 62 (3): 470–87.

- Tarchi, Marco. 2014. Italia Populista. Dal qualunquismo a Beppe Grillo. Bologna: Il Mulino.


Teaching methods

An active participation of students to class activities is required, as well as a constant presence. For that purpose, signatures will be collected in class from time to time. In order to be recognized as “frequentanti” students must be present at not less than 70% of classes and actively participate to the research work.

Assessment methods

Students not recognized as “frequentanti” will be evaluated through 1) an oral exam on the texts listed above; 2) a paper (about 3.000 words) focusing on the ideological profile, the electoral and organizational evolution, governmental participation of a European “populist” party. The paper has to be handed out not later than a week before the day in which the oral exam will be taken. Students are requested to make contact with the instructor well in advance.

Students recognized as frequentanti will be evaluated through 1) a written exam on the theoretical part of the course, 2) a paper based on the empirical research developed in the second part of the course. The paper will be presented and discussed during the last classes.

Teaching tools

Overhead projector, PC

Office hours

See the website of Filippo Tronconi