Can political science save democracy? Learning from models of civic and political education across the world

31 August 2023, Version 1
This content is an early or alternative research output and has not been peer-reviewed at the time of posting.


This paper introduces the idea that institutions are social models (‘dynamic social theories’) in which political scientist need to work with practitioners to create better theories. Part I outlines threats to representative democracy and argues that much political science is like anatomy, analyzing the body politic without healing it, with notable exceptions. It suggests that health sciences offer alternative models for political science. Part 2 shows how institutions act as social models that combine everyday knowledge with research, and suggests that this insight offers political science a powerful approach to helping citizens understand and improve democratic governance. Part 3 uses Pippa Norris’s diagnosis of democratic deficits as a framework for identifying areas for action-research to strengthen democracy, then draws lessons from models of civic education at different levels. It concludes with a proposal for political scientists to launch a “global mission” to renew democracy at scale.


Civic engagement
Theory and practice
Dynamic social theory
political education

Supplementary materials

Models of Education for Democracy
Power point presentation given at APSA 2023


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