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Stanford University

Comparative Democratic Development Part I: Conditions of Democracy

Stanford University via edX


Conditions of Democracy is the first course in a two-part series intended as a broad survey of the political, social, cultural, economic, institutional, and international factors that foster and obstruct the development and consolidation of democracy. Each factor will be examined in historical and comparative perspective, with reference to a variety of different national experiences. An important aim of the course is to encourage each student to relate the historical development and contemporary situation of a particular country or region to the various theories about democratic development, and to evaluate those theories in light of the experience of a country, set of countries, or region.


Comparative Democratic Development Part I: Conditions of Democracy

Week 1

Lecture 1: Introduction and Key Concepts

Why this course? Why democracy? How can we define electoral democracy? How does it differ from “liberal democracy”? The components of democratic quality that make for a “high-quality” or “liberal” democracy.

Lecture 2: The Third Wave of Democratization and the Democratic Recession

The history of democratic expansion since 1974. The concept of “waves” of democratic expansion and retreat. The democratic recession of the past long decade, and its distinctive features and causes.

Week 2

Lecture 3: Legitimacy, Authority and Effectiveness

What is political legitimacy? What determines the legitimacy of a political system? What are the distinctive features of democratic legitimacy? The historical and contemporary sources of legitimacy. The role of regime performance in democratic legitimacy. The relationship between economic performance and democratic legitimacy.

Lecture 4: Democratic Consolidation

How do democracies become stable and rooted, or “consolidated”? What do we mean by “democratic consolidation” and is it a useful concept? The relationship between legitimacy, or public normative support for democracy, and “democratic consolidation.”

Week 3

Lecture 5: Political Culture

What do we mean by the term “political culture” and what are the components of a democratic political culture? How do people around the world view democracy?

Lecture 6: Are Democratic Values Universal?

Is democracy a Western concept or more nearly a universal one? To what extent do people in non-Western societies—as in Latin America, Asia, and Africa—believe in the value of democracy and manifest other beliefs associated with democratic culture? What have been the recent global trends in support for democracy, rejection of authoritarian options, and support for rule of law and constitutional government? Evidence from the Latinobarometer, the Asian Barometer and the Afrobarometer.

Week 4

Lecture 7: Economic Development and Democracy

What is the relationship between the level of a country’s economic development and the presence or degree of democracy? If there is an association, why does it exist? How valid is “modernization theory”—the assertion that as countries become richer they are more likely to become democracies, or at least to sustain democracy? How do a country’s class structure and its level of inequality affect its prospects for democracy?

Lecture 8: Civil Society

What is “civil society” and how does it differ in its boundaries from “society” more broadly? What are the characteristic features of civil society, and why and how (and to what extent) does it contribute to stable democracy? What dilemmas and challenges do civil society organizations face in the contemporary era, and how can they overcome them?

Week 5

Lecture 9: Democratic Transition: Paths and Drivers

What have been the characteristic paths by which democracy has emerged historically? What paths, sequences or means are most likely to produce what Robert Dahl called a “system of mutual security,” in which competing political forces come to trust and tolerate one another?

Lecture 10: Democratic Transitions: Types and Means

Assessment of three different models of contemporary democratic transitions: those led from above, by the authoritarian regime (gradual reform); those imposed from below, by popular uprising (democratic revolution); and negotiated (pacted) transitions producing compromise agreements between the regime and the opposition. What are the advantages and drawbacks of each mode of transition, and how does the nature of the transition (including the extent to which it is broad-based and non-violent) affect the prospects for subsequent democratic success?

Week 6

Lecture 11: Democratic Breakdowns

What are the principal models or historical processes by which democracy fails? What are the most important contributing factors to the failure of democracy? The relative weight in democratic breakdown of human agency vs. structural causes, and of domestic vs. international factors. Were prominent past failures of democracy “inevitable”?

Taught by

Larry Diamond


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