Political Science 8334

Democracy and Democratization in Comparative Perspective

Nathan J. Brown

Monday 4:10-6:00


Office:  1957 E Street, Suite 512






Beginning in the 1960s, most specialists in comparative politics turned their attention away from democracy for two reasons.  First, most began to reject the idea that political structures throughout the world were converging on liberal democracy.  Second, formal electoral structures seemed increasingly irrelevant to politics throughout the world.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, seemingly entrenched authoritarian regimes in southern Europe and South America collapsed or withdrew, making way for the reemergence of democracy.  Scholarly interest in democracy began to rise.  When the communist regimes of the Soviet bloc began to collapse in the late 1980s, a torrent of scholarly writings on democracy quickly followed. 

Yet the new interest in democracy raised as many problems as it answered.  Were we really witnessing a global wave of democratization or merely the simultaneous collapse of a diverse set of authoritarian regimes?  Was democracy best understood in a narrow procedural sense or were broader definitions of democracy more appropriate?  How was democracy related to economic liberalization or to political liberalism more broadly?  In their rush to embrace democratization, were political scientists simply recreating modernization theory without realizing it?

The past decade has not witnessed any diminution of scholarly interest in democracy, but it has allowed for more reflective and nuanced scholarship to emerge.

In this course, however, we will begin not with the most recent scholarship but with some older writings that have colored much of our subsequent thinking about democracy.  These writings often contain not only the seeds of current assumptions but also long-forgotten insights and cautions that can help us approach more recent writings with a more critical eye.  After considering some of these older writers, we will proceed to some of the newer scholarship, drawing not only on empirical research but just as much to more theoretical and abstract works related to democracy and democratization.




The primary requirement is to read the assigned articles and books carefully and critically and come to class to discuss them.

The other requirements are designed to support this primary requirement:

Š       For weeks 2, 3, 9, 12, 14, and 15, all students should submit a short list (perhaps two or three) of discussion questions.  I am particularly interested in questions that compare and contrast the readings or the approaches taken by various authors to the issues raised in the course.  These questions should be posted on Blackboard at least 24 hours before the class begins.

Š       Students should also write one short critique.  For weeks 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, and 13, I expect a group of short (approximately 500 word) essays presenting a critique of the major book assigned based on at least three book reviews that appeared in academic journals.  Each student should volunteer to post a critique on one book; the essay should be posted on Blackboard at least 48 hours before the session discussing the book meets.  Students should e-mail me their top three choices for books to critique; I will assign them on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Š       At the end of the course, each student should a short research proposal (approximately 10 pages) in which s/he crafts a research question provoked by the course and designs an empirical study to answer the question.  These will be due one week after the final class session.


Grades will be calculated on the basis of written work  The three requirements described above will be weighted equally.  Failure to attend class regularly or to complete the assigned readings will be penalized.

Learning Outcomes:

As a result of completing this course, students should be able to:

Š       Understand how political scientists define democracy;

Š       Understand some of the major scholarly debates among political scientists about democracy;

Š       Assess academic writings by political scientists on democracy. and

Š       Understand how political scientists conduct research on democracy;


The following books are all required reading and I strongly urge students to purchase all of them:

Š       Aristotle, Politics

Š       John Locke, Second Treatise of Government

Š       O’Donnell and Schmitter, Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Tentative Conclusions about Uncertain Democracies

Š       Robert Putnam Making Democracy Work

Š       Nathan Brown (editor), Dynamics of Democratization

Š       Thomas Carothers, Development Aid Confronts Politics

Š       Carl Boix, Democracy and Redistribution

Š       Kenneth Greene, Why Dominant Parties Lose

Š       Valerie Bunce and Sharon Wolchik, Defeating Authoritarian Rulers

Š       Juergen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere

Š       Ruth Collier, Toward Democracy



Course outline


1.      January 13—introductory class


2.      January 27: Classical conceptions of democracy


3.       February 3: Modern Conceptions

Š       Tocqueville, Democracy in America: (selections posted on Blackboard),

Š       Adam Przworski, “Minimalist conception of democracy: a defense” Blackboard

Š       David Collier and Steven Levitsky, “Democracy with Adjectives” World Politics, Blackboard

Š       Schmitter and Karl, “What Democracy Is…and is Not,” Journal of Democracy, Blackboard


4.      February 10: European Experiences


5.      February 24: Democracy and Development


6.      March 3: Transitions to Democracy: from Authoritarianism--Early Formulations


7.      March 17: Transitions to Democracy: Later Approaches


8.      March 24: Transitions: The Color Revolutions


9.      March 31  Hybrid Regimes


10.   April 7:  Civil Society


11.   April 14: class cancelled; make up class scheduled


12.   April 21: The Public Sphere


13.   April 28: Democracy Promotion

Š       Thomas Carothers, Development Aid Confronts Politics

Š       Brown, Dyanamics of Democratization, Part III


14.   April 29 (make up day): Religion


15.   April 30: Constitutionalism and Countermajoritarianism