Comparative Politics: Democratization (Section 1)

Discipline: Comparative Politics
Instructor: Bielasiak
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 1050
End: 1205
Field Work: Day 1 - Saturday, 30 August | Russia Download Syllabus

Can any country become a democracy, regardless of its history, political culture, or economic development, or are certain preconditions necessary for democracy to flourish? This course looks at recent regime changes around the globe, when many countries in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa turned away from dictatorships to embrace new democratic practices.  Why were some successful, while others stumbled or failed?

We examine the causes, processes, and outcomes of the transition from dictatorial to democratic rule through the core concepts of state, polity and civil society: the definition of political community, the institutions of political power, and civic engagement.

Through the lens of state, polity, and civil society we discuss what is democracy and democratization; what preconditions such as economic growth, civic culture, or foreign influence are necessary for democracy; and what kinds of constitutions, elections, and civic associations are best suited for democratic success?  Finally, how do we know when democracies have become consolidated, and what explains democratic failures and slide backs to authoritarian politics?

This approach involves a close examination of the similarities and differences in political processes and outcomes across diverse countries, especially those that have experienced recent regime changes along our voyage, i.e. Russia, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Ghana, South Africa, Argentina and Brazil.

Field Work

Country: Russia
Day: 1 - Saturday, 30 August

A visit to several major political memorial sites in St. Petersburg to understand how key events in the political development of the country are portrayed, remembered, and incorporated into the present.  We will start at the Museum of Political History of Russia (the permanent collection, and the special exhibit on Man and Power in Russia) to examine artifacts, documents, photographs and videos that depict political events in Russia from the 18th century to the present.  The exhibits offer an opportunity to compare and contrast different styles of political rule and their effect on the people of the country. We will then explore memorials in the city that commemorate major political events  - the 1917 Revolution, the Siege of Leningrad, and Victims of Stalinism- to appreciate the power of symbols and the link between remembrance and contemporary politics.   The exhibits and memorials will provide a visual window into the political trajectory of Russia and serve as a basis for comparison of the ideals and realities of different political regimes, from Tsarism to communism to democratization and authoritarianism. Academic Objectives: 1.  Learn about the political transformation of Russia, particularly transitions across regime types 2.  Compare and contrast the ideals and realities of different Russian political systems 3.  Understand the uses of political symbols in a country’s development