Mike Rossi


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Courses » Theories of Democratic Transition » Syllabus

Content: Democratic Transitions: Syllabus


  • Description
  • Syllabus
  • Multimedia
  • Evaluations

This class is conducted in seminar format, with a lot of attention to discussion, student input, and independent research. While there are no formal prerequisites to this course, the instructor expects all enrolled students to have successfully completed introductory courses in comparative international politics and have at least some working knowledge of history and contemporary global issues. The intense workload and high expectations will be significantly challenging for students academically unprepared.

Grading Weights

Students’ overall evaluation will be determined by the following criteria:

Work Result Weight Due
Research Paper 40% Session 16
Paper outline with annotated bibliography 10% Session 7
Prelimary paper draft 10% Session 9
Mid-semester paper 20% Session XXX
Two short-papers 10% Session XXX and session XXX
Class participation 10% All Sessions / accumulated throughout semester
Due Dates


Reseach Paper

The primary assignment for students will be to write a 15 – 20 page research paper by the end of the semester. This paper can be on any country, or a comparative study of countries, the student wishes to research that has undergone some form of transition from authoritarian rule in the last forty years (since 1970). The paper will include a theoretical component that both addresses the literature to fit the case to larger academic studies, and introduces an argument the student will support. Topics can be discussed and framed with the instructor, but they will ultimately be independent endeavors of the student. Successful completion of the assignment will require outside research in addition to utilizing the course readings and lecture notes.

Outline, Bibliographics and Draft

At various points in the semester, students are required to submit evidence of their research in the form of outlines and annotated bibliographies as well as at least one draft for review in order for the instructor to provide dedicated support. By immediately getting started and working on the paper throughout the semester, the student is far more likely to do well on the final submission.

Midterm Paper

A 7 to 10 page midterm paper will evaluate students’ understandings of readings up to the Spring Break. Students will answer one question of their choice from a set provided by me.

Short Papers

Additionally, students must submit a minimum of 2 short papers of the their choice at the end of each section, which is 8 in total. These papers are designed to not only keep the student up with the reading but also to facilitate some basic understanding of the literature and the case studies. Each paper should be anywhere between 4 to 5 pages double-spaced. Topics will be drawn from a series of study questions provided by the instructor at the beginning of each section. Papers for each section are due the first day of the following section. Each paper will be worth up to 5 points. While you are required to write at least 2 papers, you may choose to write additional papers if points are lacking before the semester ends.


Maintaining consistent participation scores are not only the easiest components of your grade to achieve, but it also ensures you are up to date with your readings and provides a good opportunity for writing strong research papers.

Additional course requirements consist of maintaining ongoing class participation. Class participation is accumulated throughout the semester by actively speaking in class, or communicating with the instructor on topics relevant to course material through email or office hours.

Provided Work Material

There are no books for you to purchase. All readings and assignments are available for .pdf download via our course website. Additional readings, if available, will be placed on reserve at the College Library.

Session Content
Session 1


  • Read the syllabus, buy the textbook, familiarize yourself with website
Session 2

Overview of Democratic Transition Studies

  • Dankwart A. Rustow, “Transitions to Democracy: Towards a Dynamic Model”, Comparative Politics vol. 2, no. 3 (April, 1970), pp. 337 – 363
  • Larry Diamond, “Can the Whole World Become Democratic? Democracy, Development, and International Politics”, Paper presented at the Center for the Study of Democracy: University of California, Irvine (April 10, 2003)

Suggested Readings

  • Samuel P. Huntington, “Democracy’s Third Wave”, in The Global Resurgence of Democracy, Larry Diamond and Marc F. Plattner, eds., (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), pp. 3 – 25
  • Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (New York: Random House, 1961), Introduction pp. 3 – 25

Short Papers due Week 3

Session 3

Defining Democracy

  • Robert Dahl, On Democracy (Yale University Press, 1998), ch. 8: “What Political Institutions does Large-Scale Democracy Require?”, pp. 83 – 99
  • Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (Penguin Books, 2003), ch 7: “The Majority in the United States is All-Powerful and the Consequences of That”. pp. 287 – 305
  • Juan J. Linz and Alfred Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), ch. 1: “Democracy and its Arenas”, pp. 3-15
  • Linz and Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition, ch. 3: “Modern Nondemocratic Regimes”, pp. 38 – 54
  • Linz and Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition, ch. 4: “The Implications of Prior Regime Type for Transition Paths and Consolidation Talks”, pp. 55 – 65
  • Linz and Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition, ch. 5: “Actors and Contexts”, pp. 66 – 83

Suggested Reading

  • Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 2006), ch 1 – 3, pp. 1 – 87

Short Papers due Week 4

Week 4

Institutional and Cultural Legacies of Authoritarian Rule

  • Herbert Kitschelt, Zdenka Mansfeldova, Radoslaw Markowski, and Gábor Tóka, Post-Communist Party Systems: Competition, Representation, and Inter-Party Cooperation (Cambridge University Press, 1999), ch. 1: “Historical Legacies and Strategies of Democratization: Pathways Towards Post-Communist Polities”, pp. 19 – 42
  • Jan Kubik, “Cultural Legacies of State Socialism: History Making and Cultural-Political Entrepreneurship in Postcommunist Poland and Russia”, in Capitalism and Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe: Assessing the Legacy of Communist Rule, Grzegorz Ekiert and Stephen E. Hanson eds., (Cambridge University Press, 2003), pp. 317 – 351

Suggested Reading

  • P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, and F. Stephen Larrabee, “Democratization in South-Eastern Europe: Theoretical Considerations and Evolving Trends”, in Experimenting with Democracy: Regime Change in the Balkans, Geoffrey Pridham and Tom Gallagher, eds. (New York: Routledge, 2000), pp. 24 – 64

Short Papers due Week 5


Week 5

Economic Factors in Democratic Transition and Sustainability

  • Adam Przeworski, Michael E. Alvarez, Jose Antonio Cheibub and Fernando Limongi, Democracy and Development: Political Institutions and Well-Being in the World, 1950 – 1990 (Cambridge University Press, 2000), ch. 2: “Economic Development and Political Regimes”, pp. 78 – 141

Short Papers due Week 6

Week 6

Persistence of Illiberal Democratic Regimes

  • Steven Levitsky and Lucan A. Way, “The Rise of Competitive Authoritarianism”, Journal of Democracy vol. 13, no. 2 (April 2002), pp. 51 – 65
  • Marina Ottaway, Democracy Challenged: The Rise of Semi-Authoritarianism (Washington DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2003), ch. 6: “Games Semi-Authoritarian Regimes Play”, pp. 137 – 160
  • Vladimir Tismaneanu, Fantasies of Salvation: Democracy, Nationalism, and Myth in Post-Communist Europe (Princeton University Press, 1998), ch. 3: “Vindictive and Messianic Mythologies: Post-Communist Nationalism and Populism”, pp. 65 – 87

Short Papers Week 7

Weeks 7 - 8

The Role of Socio-Political Elites in Making or Breaking a Transition

  • Václav Havel, Disturbing the Peace: A Conversation with Karel Hvíž?ala (New York: Vintage Books, 1990), ch. 4: “Public Enemy”, pp. 119 – 162
  • Anna Seleny, “Old Political Rationalities and New Democracies: Compromise and Confrontation in Hungary and Poland”, World Politics, vol. 51 (July 1999), pp. 484 – 519
  • Laura Desfor Edles, “Rethinking Democratic Transition: A Culturalist Critique and the Spanish Case”, Theory and Society, vol. 24, no. 3 (June 1995), pp. 355 – 384
  • Ottaway, Democracy Challenged, ch 3: “Venezuela: Democratic Decay”, pp. 71 – 90
  • Nestor Ratesh, Romania: The Entangled Revolution (Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1991), ch 2 – 3, pp. 17 – 79
  • V.P. Gagnon, The Myth of Ethnic War: Serbia and Croatia in the 1990s (Cornell University Press, 2004), ch. 4: “Serbia and the Strategy of Demobilization”, pp. 87 – 130

Suggested Readings

  • Guillermo O’Donnell and Philippe C. Schmitter, Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Tentative Conclusions about Uncertain Democracies (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986)
  • Anna Grzymala-Busse, “Redeeming the Past: Communist Successor Parties after 1989”, in Capitalism and Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe: Assessing the Legacy of Communist Rule, Grzegorz Ekiert and Stephen E. Hanson eds., (Cambridge University Press, 2003), pp. 317 – 351
  • Nancy Bermeo “Myths of Moderation: Confrontation and Conflict during Democratic Transitions”, Comparative Politics, vol. 29, no. 3 (April 1997), pp. 305 – 22.


Week 8: ***MIDTERMS DUE***

Short Papers due Week 9

Week 9

Post-Transition: Reconciling and/or Burying the Past

  • Jan Kubik and Amy Linch, “The Original Sin of Poland’s Third Republic: Discounting ‘Solidarity’ and its Consequences for Political Reconciliation”, Polish Sociological Review, vol. 153, no. 1 (2006), pp. 9 – 38
  • Omar G. Escarnación, “Reconciliation after Democratization: Coping with the Past in Spain”, Political Science Quarterly, vol. 123, no. 3 (2008), pp. 435 – 459

Short Papers due Week 10

Weeks 10 - 13

Post-Transition: (Re)Defining Nationalism, Community and Citizenship

  • Marc Howard Ross, Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict (Cambridge University Press, 2007), ch. 2: “The Political Psychology of Competing Narratives”, pp. 30 – 62
  • Ashutosh Varshney, “Ethnic Conflict and Civil Society: India and Beyond”, World Politics, vol. 53 (April 2001), pp. 362 – 98
  • Ronald Grigor Suny, “Constructing Primordialism: Old Histories for New Nations”, The Journal of Modern History, vol. 73, no. 4 (December 2001), pp. 862 – 896
  • Rogers Brubaker, Nationalist Politics and Everyday Ethnicity in a Transylvanian Town (Princeton University Press, 2006), ch. 4: “Cluj after Ceau?escu”, pp. 119 – 163
  • Matthew Collin, Guerrilla Radio: Rock ‘n’ Roll and Serbia’s Underground Resistance (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2001), ch. 3 – 4, pp. 65 – 131
  • Nicolai Petro, Crafting Democracy: How Novgorod has Coped with Rapid Social Change (Cornell University Press, 2004), ch. 6: “Symbols at Work”, pp. 146 – 180
  • Rogers Brubaker, Ethnicity without Groups (Harvard University Press, 2004), ch. 8: “1848 in 1998: The Politics of Commemoration in Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia”, pp. 161 – 204
  • Nicolai Petro, Crafting Democracy, ch. 7: “Crafting Democracy”, pp. 181 – 202


Short Papers due Week 14

Week 14

Concluding Remarks

  • Concluding thoughts on course, last-minute questions on research papers, course evaluations


©Michael Rossi – http://michael-rossi.demokratio.info