Fall/Winter Timetable

POL2191Y1Y L5101

Undergraduate Course Code: POL491Y1Y L5101

Topics in Canadian Politics II

Democracy in Decline: Redeeming Politics through Civic Engagement


Why are people so turned off politics? Governments offload issue resolution to the non-profit Third Sector expecting charitable groups to take up the burden. Philanthropic failure results. Canadians steadily retract their own formal commitments to one another. Voting declines. We care less for each other, when the post-modern state expects more. Voluntarism sags. We withhold recognition and respect. Unity efforts fail. Political Science often views institutional reform of governance -- citizen’s forums, free votes, electoral reform, transparency -- as a remedy for the “democratic deficit”. This course, however, explores the malaise through a survey of community decline in trust and civic spiritedness In seeking to “fix” it, we examine the “civic core” of voluntary activity and the stimulation of social cohesion and social reasoning in our civic society …the preconditions for heightened political engagement. Well-suited for students inquiring into the loss of trust, reciprocity and the “common good” in Canada.


Initial readings from R. Putnam [www.hks.harvard.edu/saguaro], extensive use of website material on Third Sector organizations and civic engagement.

Format and Requirements

Seminar. Grade based on: book analysis, major paper, one seminar presentation and regular participation. This course requires a Service-Learning [www.ccp.utoronto.ca] component: community volunteering to test academic insights. The course is team taught by academic, community and NGO instructors.