Democratization and Modernization: Concepts, Issues, and Approaches

Discipline: Comparative Politics
Instructor: Xie
Credits: 3
Day: B
Start: 1050
End: 1205
Field Work: Day 6 | India
Prerequisites: This course has no pre-requisites. However, intellectual curiosity in and prior exposure (academic or otherwise) to politics and history of non-U.S. countries, as well as knowledge about U.S. foreign policy, would be quite useful. Download Syllabus

This is an upper-level political science course that examines the major concepts, issues, and approaches in scholarly research on democratization and modernization. Given the nature of the Semester at Sea program, this course pay special attention to processes of democratization and modernization in countries located along the route, as well as topics that are highly relevant for these countries.

As the ship departs the U.S., the oldest democracy in the world, the course starts with discussions about democracy, including how to conceptualize democracy, the relationship between economic development and democracy, and the pros and cons of different forms of democratic governance.

When the ship approaches Japan, we will shift attention to Japanese politics and U.S.-Japan relations. We will take a brief look at the cultural underpinnings of the Japanese democracy, as well as the major issues in U.S.-Japan relations.

As the ship departs Kobe, we will spend three classes on China, the largest (in terms of population, territory, and economy) country on the route. We first address the rise of China, particularly its implications for regional and international security. Then we examine debates surrounding the Beijing Consensus: is there such a consensus? Could it replace the Washington Consensus? We conclude this section by contemplating the prospects of democratization in China.

After China, the ship sails into Southeast Asia, which is home to ten diverse countries. We will examine how people in “Zomia”—a huge expanse of upland that borders several countries in this region—manage to escape from the state. We will also discuss U.S. re-engagement with this region after the Vietnam War, with particular attention to U.S. relations with Vietnam and Myanmar.

Sailing across the Indian Ocean from Cochin to Port Louis, we will discuss politics in India, the world’s largest democracy, compare and contrast the different paths of development in India and China, and review the complex relationship between the U.S. and South Asia.

For the next three classes, we will reflect upon modernization, a topic that is still highly relevant for Africa—a vast continent that remains politically and economically underdeveloped. Then we will look into the dynamics of political change in Africa, as well as China’s “charm offensive” on this continent.

Finally, as the ship approaches Casablanca, we will try to come to grips with the Arab Spring. Why did the Arab Spring catch most observers by surprise? Why has the Arab world as a whole lagged behind other regions in terms of democratization? What lessons can be drawn from the Arab Spring?

Field Work

Country: India
Day: 6

This course will have a field lab at Cochin, India, scheduled on Monday, March 11th, 2013. The lab presents an opportunity to integrate classroom discussions of India, China, and the U.S. with first-hand experience in these countries. Both India and China belong to BRICS, a loose organization of emerging economies. They are the giants of Asia, yet they have followed sharply divergent paths of development. India has a very competitive IT industry, whereas China is a manufacturing powerhouse. China is an authoritarian regime, whereas India is the world’s largest democracy. Yet in terms of corruption and social inequality, they are quite similar to each other. What explains the similarities and differences?   Furthermore, both India and the U.S. are federal democracies, yet they have fundamentally different forms of government: one is parliamentary, the other presidential. Why did the two countries adopt different constitutional structures? What are the consequences of constitutional choices? Does constitutional design affect economic development? The field lab is intended to give students a chance to find out answers to these questions, bringing into bear classroom discussions about these countries.
Academic Objectives:
  1. This field lab aims to help students understand the divergent paths of political and development in India and China, the two giants in Asia.
  2. Classroom discussions of--and students' experience in--these two countries will be critically examined in light of an Indian scholar's perspectives on the differences and similarities between the two countries.
  3. Students are required to write a six-page response paper, 12-point font, doubled spaced, about the field trip, demonstrating their critical thinking on the causes and consequences of divergent political and/or economic trajectories in China, India, and the U.S.