Democracy, democratization and Civil Societies in Comparative Perspective (SUMMER 2018)

Course content


The study of democracy and democratisation has a long history in the subfield of political sociology. Interest in this topic has expanded dramatically with “The Third Wave of Democratisation” that has swept much of Latin America, Southern Europe, East Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union during the past three decades. By the start of the 21st century, nearly two-thirds of the world’s states could reasonably be described as democracies. The prevalence of democracy today represents a significant advance from the early 1970s, when more than two-thirds of the world’s states were under authoritarian rule. That progress, however, should not be taken for granted. Many of the world’s newer democracies depart significantly from the liberal ideal, occupying an uneasy middle group or “illiberal democracies”—a governing system in which citizens elect their political leaders but freedom is curtailed by the government. Thus, their democratic prospects remain fragile and backsliding toward autocracy or suffer an outbreak of internal civil war. Furthermore, the Arab Middle East and countries like China, North Korea and Cuba have weathered all waves of democratisation during the past three decades. It remains the only region and countries in which genuine democratic change is absent.


The module  has four main goals. The first is to introduce students to the major issues, theories, concepts, and arguments in the literature on recent democratisation and reasons for, and processes by which, countries move from authoritarian conditions to the status of a democracy. The second goal of the course is to give students a comparative perspective on some of the major cases of transitions from dictatorship to democracy. The third goal is to considers how far the trend towards democracy might recently have come to an end, manifested in the growing number of countries that have not moved beyond partial democracy or even reverted back to authoritarianism. Finally, we considers the problem or major challenges of democratic transition and consolidation in plural societies marked by social and ethnic cleavages.


Elective course BA+MA

Course package (MSc 2015):
Knowledge, organisation and politics

Please notice that this course is offered both as 7,5 ECTS and 10 ECTS (see under exam).

Learning outcome



• By the end of the module it is intended that the student will be able to:

• Demonstrate knowledge of recent trends in the spread of democracy throughout the world;

• Demonstrate an understanding of the different theoretical approaches to democratisation and analyse and assess the factors that contribute to countries’ shift from authoritarian to democratic status, in particular the relative role of social, cultural, political and economic forces;

• Identify the key international actors involved in democracy promotion and analyse and assess their aims and practices;

• Apply conceptual tools to analyse democratisation processes in particular cases;


Students should also have;

• Developed a good overview of key theoretical issues and debates on democracy and democratisation including the various schemas used to categorise different states of democratic rule, and measurement of such transition in developing countries;

• Developed the ability to apply and evaluate different theoretical frameworks to explain recent trends in regime change and the record of international democracy promotion efforts;

• Developed their capacity for the critical examine to the extent to which the nature, features and causes of democratisation across countries display common traits, or whether country or regional specificities are more apparent;

• Developed the ability to assess the merits of competing characterisations of and explanations for the relationship between democracy and violence in plural societies, along with the role played by political institutions in overcoming such cleavages;

• Developed the ability to critically analyses and present both in oral and written form, key issues and works on the problems of democratisation.


Student will:

  • develop a broad, comparative understanding of the mechanisms behind democratic transitions from a historical and social scientific perspective to acquire the competence to assess present-day democratic development on a national level.

The module will be delivered through a combination of lectures, seminars, interactive workshops.

The syllabus consists of about 800 standard pages of relevant scientific literature for 10 ECTS and 600 pages for 7.5 ECTS

Syllabus: A more comprehensive bibliography will be available at abslon to students taking this course.  login at


There are no prerequisites, other than a keen interest in politics and society in global south.

Please be aware:

This course has limited space.

The ordinary period for registration for Summer courses is from November 15th to December 1st.
If the course is full after this period, it will NOT be offered for registration again, in the extra period for registration from May 15th to June 1st.

WORKLOAD - see below - Workload is specified for the 7,5 ECTS course.

10 ECTS:
Lectures: 28
Course preparation: 160
Exercises: 46
Project work: 20
Exam Preparation: 21
Total: 275

The number of lecture hours are the same for both 7,5 and 10 ECTS courses.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
See exam description
Type of assessment
Course participation
Active Participation will consist of: Lecture attendance, active participation and presentations.
Rules and definitions: "Active participation" means that Attendance at all class meetings is mandatory (NB: minimum attendance requirement is 90% or 12 units of teaching and learning events).
Marking scale
passed/not passed
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

Please see the learning outcome.

See exam description
Type of assessment
Written examination
Individual/group. Free written take-home essays are assignments for which students define and formulate a problem within the parameters of the course and based on an individual exam syllabus. The free written take-home essay must be no longer than 10 pages. For group assignments, an extra 5 pages is added per additional student. Further details for this exam form can be found in the Curriculum and in the General Guide to Examinations at KUnet.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

Please see the learning outcome.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 28
  • Preparation
  • 120
  • Exercises
  • 58
  • English
  • 206