Course Schedule

A Note on Readings

There are five “required” books for this course:

Please note that when I say that there are “required” texts, I mean only that I have assigned you to read them (most in their entirety, a few will have a chapter or two skipped), not that you must purchase them. You are encouraged to share copies, form anarcho-syndicalist book-trading collectives, make gratuitous use of our inter-library loan services, or generally do whatever necessary to make sure you have the texts to read and study from.


January 9 (M): Introductions and Syllabus (No Reading)

Case Study #1: Nigeria – Understanding Why Democracy is Hard

January 11 (W): Why Does Democracy Sometimes Fail? (I): Nigeria’s Failed Democratic Past

  • Chinua Achebe (1966), A Man of the People, complete

January 16 (M):  Martin Luther King, jr. Holiday, No Class

January 18 (W):  Why Does Democracy Sometimes Fail? (II): The Collapse of Democracy in Post-Independence Africa

Concept #1: Defining Democracy (in Theory and Practice)

January 23 (M): How Do We Know Democracy When We See It?

January 25 (W): Is There Only One Kind of Democracy?

January 30 (M): What’s a Democracy That’s Not a Democracy?

February 1 (W): Measuring Democracy

You may also wish to consult (either now or as you begin your project) the “Polity” Dataset User’s Manual, particularly pp. 13-16

Concept #2: Where Does Democracy Come From?

February 6 (M):Are there Democratic “Preconditions?”: Modernization and Economic Arguments

February 8 (W): Is There Such a Thing as a “Democratic Culture?” 

February 13 (M): Islam and Democracy, Theory and Practice

February 15 (W): Structure and Agency on the Road to Democracy

  • Barrington Moore, jr. (1966), Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy, pp. 3-39413-32
  • Charles Tilly (1995), “Democracy Is a Lake,” in The Social Construction of Democracy: 1870 – 1990, ed. George Reid Andrews and Herrick Chapman (New York University Press), pp. 365-87

Case Study #2: American Democratization in the 18th and 19th Centuries—Democratization as a Slow, Uneven Process

February 20 (M): The Long Path to American Democracy (I)— Defining Democracy in the Post-Revolutionary Era

February 22 (W): The Long Path to American Democracy (II)—How Compromises that Preserve Democracy Can Also Threaten It

  • Alexander Keyssar (2000), The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States, pp. 1-93, part onepart two

February 27 (M): American Democracy and the Racial State

March 1 (W): Democratization Index Presentations, No Readings

March 6 (M): Spring Break (No Class)

March 8 (W): Spring Break (No Class)

Concept #3: How The Other Half Lives: Authoritarian Rule

March 13 (M): Logic of Authoritarian Rule (I) – Bad Policy and Good Politics

  • Bueno de Mesquita and Smith (2011), The Dictator’s Handbook, entire (skip chapter 7 on foreign aid and chapter 9 on war)

March 15 (W): No Class, Professor in Washington, D.C. with IDS Graduate Students

March 20 (M): The Logic of Authoritarian Rule (II) – Fraud and Electoral Malfeasance, or How To Rig an Election

Concept #4: How Democratization Happens: The Transition Paradigm

March 22 (W): The “Transition” Paradigm

  • Guillermo O’Donnell and Phillippe Schmitter, Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Tentative Conclusions about Uncertain Transitions, entire book

March 27 (M): Peer Review Workshop (No Reading, No Class for Undergrads)

Case Study #3: China’s Democratic Future?

March 29 (W): How Durable is Chinese Authoritatianism?

April 3 (M): What Do the Chinese People Want? Is it Democracy? (I)

  • Bruce Dickson (2016), The Dictator’s Dilemma (Oxford University Press), pp. 96-213

April 5 (W): What Do the Chinese People Want? Is it Democracy? (II)

  • Bruce Dickson (2016), The Dictator’s Dilemma (Oxford University Press), pp. 215-322
  • In-Class: Video, “Please Vote For Me”

Epilogue: Democratic Backsliding and the Problem of Consolidation

April 10 (M): When and Why Do Democracies Fail? Some Theories…

  • Nancy Bermeo (2003), Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times (Princeton University Press), pp. 1-63

April 12 (W): Who’s To Blame? Polarization, Elites, and Masses (I)

April 17 (M):Who’s To Blame? Polarization, Elites, and Masses (II)

April 19 (W): What Comes Next?