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Stanford University

Comparative Democratic Development Part II: Structuring Democracy

Stanford University via edX


The first part of this course explored the definition and elements of liberal democracy and the social, economic, and cultural conditions for sustaining. It also looked at the dynamics of democracy, taking a more actor-centered approach to examine the drivers of democratic transitions and breakdowns. This second and final part of the course takes a more political approach, asking two questions. First, how do the institutions of liberal democracy vary in design, and what institutional choices seem to offer the best prospects for sustaining liberal democracy? What tensions and tradeoffs must be navigated in designing or reforming democratic institutions? Second, is it possible for external actors to assist in the development and defense of democracy? What types of international policies and practices have been most successful in supporting democracy from abroad, and how can democracy be promoted more effectively?


Week 1

Lecture 1: Constitutional Design

Trade-offs between competing democratic values in constitutional design. The consensual vs. majoritarian models of government. The pros and cons of presidential vs. parliamentary forms of democracy.

Lecture 2: Parties and Party Systems

Why political parties are important to democracy. The criteria of institutionalization and how they apply to political parties. How parties and party systems vary across democracies. Types of political parties and their implications for democracy.

Week 2

Lecture 3: Electoral Systems

Types of majoritarian electoral systems. First Past the Post vs. the Alternative Vote (Ranked Choice Voting) vs. the Two Round Runoff System vs the Single Non-Transferrable Vote. The advantages and disadvantages of majoritarian electoral systems.

Lecture 4: Choosing Between Different Systems

The advantages and disadvantages of proportional representation (PR). Types of PR. Closed vs. open list PR. Mixed electoral systems. Determinants of proporationality: district magnitude and the electoral threshold.

Week 3

Lecture 5: Ethnicity and Ethnic Conflict

What is ethnicity and what is distinctive about ethnic identity? The challenges that ethnic pluralism pose for democracy. When are ethnic divisions most likely to endanger democratic stability?

Lecture 6: Managing Ethnic Conflict

The imperative for wise policies and institutional designs to manage ethnic conflict. Guiding principles for reducing ethnic conflict. Two alternative models of ethnic conflict management: Power sharing (consociational democracy) vs. vote-pooling and inducing moderation. The role of federalism in managing ethnic conflict.

Week 4

Lecture 7: Corruption

What is corruption? The challenge that corruption and state capture pose to democratic stability. Good vs. bad forms of governance. Predatory systems as extremely bad forms of governance that threaten democracy and development. The need for vertical, external and horizontal accountability to control corruption. What are institutions of horizontal accountability and what is necessary for their success? How to get institutional reform.

Lecture 8: International Influences

International demonstration and diffusion effects on regime types. Regional institutions and their formal roles. International mechanisms to support or promote democracy: Foreign aid, sanctions, and diplomacy. The new phenomenon of authoritarian regime promotion, mainly by Russia and China. How democracies should respond.

Week 5

Lecture 9: Democracy Promotion

Should the U.S. and other established democracies use their power and resources to promote or support democracy elsewhere in the world? The debate between realism and idealism in U.S. foreign policy. Forms and instruments of assistance to promote democracy. Historical examples of democracy assistance. Issues and dilemmas in providing democratic assistance. What diplomats can do to promote democracy. How to promote democracy more effectively.

Taught by

Larry Diamond


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