Political Science | Political Philosophy: Topic The Theory and Practices of Democratization
Y675 | 7755 | Isaac

Topic:  The Theory and Practice of Democratization

The current unfolding of struggles for democratization in north
Africa and the Middle East—called by some an “Arab Spring”—is both
exciting and intellectually fascinating. This seminar is designed to
rise to the intellectual challenge of these events by reflecting on
the ways that the study of democratization has evolved in US
political science. This is a course at the intersection
of “political theory,” “comparative politics,” and political science
in general. It is intended to identify and analyze the main lines of
inquiry in the study of democratization in US political science; to
consider the complex relationships between normative and empirical
analysis in this work, and especially the ways that the study of
democratization in US political science has related to the role of
the US state in the world; and to help students develop a broad and
rich appreciation of the challenges and promise of research in
democratization, so that they can better think about their own
research questions and projects. A central text of the seminar will
be Guillermo O’Donnell and Philippe Schmitter’s Transitions from
Authoritarian Rule: Tentative Conclusions about Uncertain
Democracies (1986), which we will treat as both a seminal work of
explanatory political science and as a form of political engagement.
The seminar will also involve critical discussion of Nicholas
Guilhot’s The Democracy Makers: Human Rights and International Order
(2005). These texts will establish a framework for considering much
contemporary political science, including work in comparative
politics dealing with “the quality of democracy,” arguments about
conceptualization and measurement associated with the Freedom House
index, and debates in political theory and comparative politics
about populism, social movements, and the “diffusion” of democratic
ideas. We will also discuss the June 2011 issue of the journal
Perspectives on Politics (edited by the professor), which features
the theme of “democratization.” The course is intended primarily for
graduate students in political science who work at the intersection
of political theory and comparative politics or American politics.