SOCS 647
Democracy and Dictatorship in the Contemporary World

Peter Rutland  

Three 5-7 page assignments due on July 5, July 11 and July 18.  [33 points each]    Exceptional class participation can boost your score by 10 points. 

Students are required to attend every class and to complete the required reading. Beware of plagiarism i.e. using material not written by yourself and without clear attribution to the source.

Goals of the Course

The world’s political systems are increasingly polarized between winners and losers, between countries that have “made it” into liberal democracy and market capitalism, and those that remain mired in poverty, stagnation, inequality and war. This picture, of course, is too simple. But it is a useful point of departure. Only by studying individual countries can we understand the variety of political and economic systems and the complexity of the modern world, despite the homogenizing process of globalization.

The focus of the course is the present. To get up to speed on contemporary events students should read the international section of the New York Times, International Herald Tribune or Washington Post every day. They are available free on the web (, and   

But this course is not just a survey of current events. The goal is to provide you with a conceptual framework, a box of tools in order to help answer the question of who rules, and how, in each country of the world as of 2005. In fact you will be offered three theoretical frameworks, prisms through which to view the world. Each of these theories is both descriptive and normative - they both describe the world and make a value judgment about what is right and wrong. The three theories a

1)    Liberal democracy or pluralism,
2)    Marxism and the theory of imperialism, and
3)    Elite theory 

We will try to survey the whole range of political systems currently in operation, looking at the First World (with Europe and Japan), what used to be the Second World (Russia and China), and the Third World (Mexico, India, Iran, S. Africa).  Students will also write case studies of three individual countries beyond this list. The case studies serve two purposes. First, they teach you how to find out information about country X and place it into a coherent context. Second, they teach you how to apply the three theories. 

I will make extensive use of email to send out readings and additional short articles, so please be sure that I have the most convenient email for you. I usually send files in Word RTF format, to read them you may have to save the file to your desktop and then open them in Word. 


Required general readings, available in Broad Street Books: 

Robert Dahl                     On Democracy (Yale University Press, 2000)

Jeff Kopstein &                Comparative Politics: Interests, Identities and Institutions Mark Lichbach (eds)        (Cambridge University Press, 2000)

John Markoff                    Waves of Democracy (Pine Forge Press, 1996)

Amartya Sen                     Development as Freedom (Anchor Books, 2000)

Scott & Nick Thompson    Baobab and the Mango Tree: Lessons About Development  (Zed Books, 2001)  

These and all other books cited in the reading list are on reserve in the Science library. All the journals listed here are available online through the Olin library web page.  

Required readings are the first 2-3 articles listed for each class.  

Additional readings are extra sources that you might find useful when writing your assignments. Extra credit will be given for students who use these additional theoretical and comparative sources.

The Assignments

In the assignments you are expected to apply in turn each of the three theories to each of three countries i.e. a liberal analysis of Country A, a Marxist analysis of Country B, an Elite Theory analysis of Country C. You will be allotted the three countries you must study in a random draw in the first class. You can ask the instructor to change your country allocation if you have a strong desire to do a particular country. 

Each paper should consist of:               

- an introduction summarizing your main points. 

- a page or so on the history of the country, as interpreted through the particular theory being applied. 

- a couple of pages explaining how the current political system works, its structure and problems, as seen through the prism of the given theory. Who rules, and how? Is the political situation stable or unstable?  What are the threats to stability? What does the theory propose should be done to improve things?  

- a couple of pages explicitly discussing the advantages and disadvantages to using the given theory to analyze the country.  

Each paper should be about 5-7 pages long. For the history and current situation you should begin with the history and annual reports on each country in Encyclopedia Britannica. You should also locate and use at least one book, to give you a sense of academic approaches to the country. You should also use at least 4 articles from sources such as Washington Post or New York Times to bring you up to date.

Web Sources

There are many websites providing a wealth of information about individual countries. Here is a list of some of the most useful, in roughly descending order of importance.   Go to country index or complete archive  

Encyclopedia Britannica is on the Olin website, on the Reference Tools page. Type in a country’s name and you will find a summary article plus handy yearbooks analyzing the major political events. 

Freedom House country reports are at: 

CIA World Factbook:       

US State Department Country notes:       

Library of Congress Country Studies:      

These are very useful, thorough handbooks written for the US Army, full text is available online. Olin has most of them in hardcopies catalogued at D101.22:550, with title format like Nigeria: A Country Study

World Area Studies Internet Resources:       

One of the best sites listing various web sources on world politics.                       free data and some free analysis for each country plus web links 

For the Marxism paper: analysis from a socialist angle, organized

htttp://  for more polemical analysis 

University of Michigan Library:                       

Extensive links to foreign government sites, statistics, international organizations.  

For data on economic performance and human development indicators, see the comprehensive tables in the United Nations Development Project Human Development Report, online at: 

The “ultimate” political sience links webpage: 

You should also search for relevant articles on your assigned countries in political science journals. Go to: then click on Journal Locator under Electronic Resources  

Journal of Democracy                -- useful for short, up-to-date essays on the politics of various countries.

World Politics                  -- more academic type articles

SAIS Review                   -- essays on national and international politics. 

Also available in hard copy in Olin:  Current History   (has one issue per year on each region of the world)

Comparative Politics                     Comparative Political Studies

The Economist                                Government and Opposition 

Good for political science analysis are the following edited volumes, which have chapters on individual countries: Larry Diamond et al (eds.), Democracy In Developing Countries (4 vols.)

Course Calendar

The first half of the course introduces three theories about how political systems work. We then switch to looking at individual cases, and see how the theories hold up in the contemporary world.

June 27


We are living in a democracy - but what exactly is a democracy?  We begin by looking at the roots of  modern democracy - the Greek model, individual rights theory, Madisonian pluralism.

Robert Dahl                        On Democracy
James Madison                   The Federalist Papers no. 10 (1787)
Daniel Elazar                      “Liberty and American federal democracy”                                                            

Aristotle                                                Politics, Book 4. 

Additional reading:
The Federalist Papers
  on the web at

Alexis de Tocqueville                  Democracy in America The whole text is on the web at:

“Democracy in the World: Tocqueville Reconsidered” a special issue of Journal of Democracy, vol. 11, no. 1, January 2000 (Available in Olin e-journal)


How do these principles translate through into the way modern democracies function – in the concepts of  pluralism and representative democracy? What are the strengths and the weaknesses of democracy as it is practiced in the US? Does democracy require the existence of a strong sense of national identity and loyalty? How did democracy spread to include wider social groups? Why did it take so long for women to get the vote? What is the relationship between democracy and capitalism?                                  

Robert Putnam                   “Bowling alone: America’s declining social capital,” in Journal of Democracy,  January 1995, vol. 6, no. 1 (in Olin e-journals)

Caroline Pateman “Three questions about womanhood suffrage” (from Caroline Daley & Melanie Nolan (eds) Suffrage and Beyond)

Additional reading:
John Markoff                  Waves of Democracy: Social Movements and Political Change (1996)

Robert A. Dahl                  “On removing certain impediments to democracy in the U.S.,”  Political Science Quarterly, vol. 92, Spring, 1997

Jon Stewart                   America (The Book) (2004)

David Held                        Models of Democracy (1996)

Anne Philips                    Engendering Democracy esp. ch. 2 “Classic debates”

Robert A. Dahl.                 Democracy and its critics (1989)


There is a third theory that combines some elements of liberalism and Marxism, while rejecting other parts of these theories. Fascism can be seen as an extreme and perverse manifestation of elite theory. Elite theory provides a framework for explaining the persistence of authoritarian and military rule.  

G. Field and J. Higley                Elitism, pp. 1-68  (on reserve)

Alan Wolfe                     “The power elite now” American Prospect, (vol. 10, no. 44, 1999) (Olin e-journal) 

 Additional reading:
Benito Mussolini                              “What is fascism?”

Samuel P. Huntington                 Political Order in Changing Societies (1971)

John Higley                    Elites and Democratic Consolidation in Latin America and & Richard Gunther (eds)                Southern Europe (1991)

Ruth Berins Collier                Paths towards Democracy: the Working Class and Elites in Western Europe and South America

Peter Bachrach                             The Theory of Democratic Elitism (1967)   


A look at the challenges facing countries that are struggle to develop, to “modernize”. How do factors such as colonialism, geography, cultural patterns, social structures, and leadership choices affect why some countries succeed while others struggle and fail? How relevant to the plight of these countries are the grand theories that we have discussed so far in the course? As a case study we will use the Thomsons book, which compares Ghana and Thailand.  

Scott & Nicholas Thompson                The Baobab and Mango Tree: Lessons About Development

Amartya Sen                                         Development as Freedom (2000)

Amartya Sen                                         “More than 100 million women are missing,” New York Review of Books, 20 December 1990.

Additional Reading:
William Easterly                                  The Elusive Quest for Growth (2004)      

Amartya Sen                                          “Democracy as a universal value,” Journal of Democracy, vol. 10, no. 3, July 1999, pp. 3-17 (Olin e-journal) 

First assignment due, to be submitted in class on July 5: 

A Marxist analysis of country X. How would a Marxist assess the political and economic situation in country X? Is it stable or unstable? What classes or political forces exist in that country that could overthrow the colonial dependency and/or capitalist exploitation that prevails there?  Even if a revolution is not likely, what “progressive forces” could improve the lot of the oppressed?


What are the differences between the US and British democratic traditions? How does a parliamentary system differ from a presidential system? What was Thatcherism, and why did it appear when it did? What does Tony Blair’s New Labour stand for?  

Kopstein & Lichbach                Comparative Politics, introduction, ch. 1


The reconstruction of democracy after 1945 in France and Germany. The workings of  proportional representation and coalition governments; corporatism and the welfare state. The rise of the European Union and its implications for democratic nation-states. The 2005 referendum and the future of the EU. 

Kopstein & Lichbach                 Comparative Politics, chs. 2 and 3

Marc Plattner                  “The European Union: Competing goals, conflicting perspectives,” Journal of Democracy, vol. 14, no. 4, October 2003 (Olin e-journal)

Donald Horowitz                                “Electoral systems: a primer for leaders,” J. of Dem, 14, 4, Oct, 2003

Arend Lijphart.                 Patterns of Democracy (1999)

July 7

(a)   INDIA

India made the transition from colonial rule to become the world’s largest democracy. How can a  country so poor, and so divided by religious and ethnic strife, sustain itself as a democracy? 

Kopstein & Lichbach                 Comparative Politics, ch. 8

Ashutosh Varshney                 “Why democracy survives,” Journal of Democracy, vol. 9, no. 3, July 1998 ( Olin e-journal)

Sumit Ganguly                 “India’s multiple revolutions,” Journal of Democracy, 13, 1, Jan. 2002

Alyssa Ayres                     “Musharaff’s Pakistan,” Current History, April 2004 (e-journal)

(b)   JAPAN

Japan is America’s closest ally in Asia. It was also the first non-European country to modernize itself. How successful is the Japanese political and economic model? Is it now in crisis?  Japanese parliamentarism works through patronage and consensus: just how democratic is Japan? 

Kopstein & Lichbach                 Comparative Politics, ch. 4 on Japan

July 8


The Soviet Union tried to build a state on Marxist principles. Their system was copied in more than a dozen other states, but proved a disastrous failure. How did the Soviet system work? Why did Gorbachev launch perestroika - and why did it fail?  Where is Russia headed today? 

Kopstein & Lichbach                 Comparative Politics, ch. 5 on Russia

Peter Rutland                  “Russia’s flawed democracy” in Current History, October 1998

Michael McFaul                  “Countries at the crossroads: Russia” May 2005.


What were the differences between Chinese and Soviet socialism? Why is China doing a better job of managing the transition to capitalism than Russia? 

Kopstein & Lichbach                Comparative Politics, ch. 6 on China

Bruce Dickson                 “Beijing’s ambivalent reformers,” Current History, Sept 2004

“China’s changing of the guard”    Journal of Democracy, vol. 14, no. 1, Jan. 2003 (e-journal)

 “Will China democratize?”                   Journal of Democracy, vol. 9, no. 1, Jan. 1998  

Second assignment due, 5-7 pages, to be submitted in class on July 11:
An Elite theory analysis of country Y. How would an Elite Theorist assess the political and economic situation in country Y? Who makes up the ruling elite, and what is the basis for their power? Is the situation stable or unstable? What classes or political forces exist that could threaten or promote stability?

July 11


Mexico had a revolution that led to one-party rule, but not Soviet-style socialism. Now the PRI regime itself has been toppled – but will President Fox be able to produce growth and stability? What are the common features of Latin American countries, as they try to consolidate their transition from authoritarianism to democracy?  

Kopstein & Lichbach                 Comparative Politics, ch. 7 on Mexico

Andreas Schedler                        “Mexico’s victory: The democratic revelation,” Journal of Democracy, vol. 11, no 4, October 2000 (Olin e-journal)

Abraham Lowenthal                “Latin America at the century’s turn,” Journal of Democracy, vol. 11, no. 2, April 2000 (Olin e-journal)

Michael Shifter                    “Latin America’s populist turn,” Current History, February 2005

Denise Dresser                  “Fox’s Mexico,” Current History, February 2005  (Olin e-journal)

July 12


A major triumph for democracy was the (more or less peaceful) collapse of the apartheid regime.  Can South Africa be a model for other African states?  

Kopstein & Lichbach                 Comparative Politics, ch. 10 on South Africa

Antoinette Handley                “The new South Africa,” Current History, May 2004 (Olin e-journal)

Robert Mattes                      “South Africa: democracy without the people?” Journal of democracy, vol. 12, no.1, January 2002 (Olin e-journal)

Michael Bratton                   “Africa: the alternation effect,” Jour. of Democracy, 15, 4, Oct. 2004

Richard Joseph                   “Africa, 1990-1997: From abertura to closure,” Journal of Democracy,  vol. 9, no. 2, April 1998 (Olin e-journal) 

b)   IRAQ 

We will run a small simulation exercise, designing a new constitution for Iraq. The first session will take place on July 12 and we will continue on July 13. 

Kanan Makiya                   “A model for post-Saddam Iraq,” Journal of Democracy, vol 14, no 3, Jul 2003

Larry Diamond                                “Lessons from Iraq,” Journal of Democracy, vol. 16, no. 1 Jan. 2004

Daniel Byman                    “Constructing a Democratic Iraq,” International Security 28, 1 2003 (e-journal)

Michael Ignatieff                 “Democratic Providentialism,” New York Times, 12 December 2004

Arendt Lijphart                  “Constitutional design for divided societies,” Jrl. of Democracy, 15, 2 Ap 2004


What kinds of  political system are found in Moslem countries? Are Islam and democracy compatible?  Iran had a revolution in 1979 that introduced a unique modern theocracy. 

Kopstein & Lichbach                 Comparative Politics, ch. 9 on Iran

Marc Plattner &                              “Is Iran democratizing?,”  Journal of Democracy,

Larry Diamond                          vol. 11, no 4, October 2000 (Olin e-journal)

Vali Nasr                                “The rise of ‘Muslim Democracy’,” Journal of Democracy,                                                                                    vol. 16, no 2, April 2005

Mohamed Talbi                    “Arabs and democracy: A record of failure,” Journal of Democracy,  vol. 11, no 3, July 2000

Adrian Karatnycky                “Moslem countries and the democracy gap,” Journal of Democracy,  vol. 13, no 1, January 2002

July 14

What are the prospects for democracy world-wide?  Can democracy survive and prosper? Can it meet the challenges of ethnic conflict, poverty, inequality, and environmental decay? Is Zakaria correct in seeing a contradiction between individual rights and electoral democracy? Has the global war on terror been good, or bad, for the cause of liberty?

Fareed Zakaria                                   “The rise of illiberal democracy,” Foreign Affairs November 1997

Adrian Karatnycky                           “Gains for freedom amidst terror and uncertainty,”     

Samuel P. Huntington                          “After twenty years: The future of the Third Wave,”  Journal of Democracy, vol. 8, no. 4, October 1997 (e-journal)

Jane Jaquette                                 “Women and democracy” Journal of Democracy, 12, 3,  July 2001  

Additional Reading

Fareed Zakaria                             The Future of Freedom Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad (2004)

Thomas Carothers                               “Democracy’s sober state,” Current History, December 2004

Samuel P. Huntington.                      The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late 20th Century (1991)

Lisa Anderson (ed)                      Transitions to Democracy (1999)

Adam Przeworski  & M. Alvarez                Democracy and Development  (2000) 

Seymour M. Lipset                               “The social prerequisites of democracy revisited,” American Sociological Review, vol. 59, February 1994 (e-journal)

Ronald Inglehart                                                Modernization and Post-Modernization.  

Third assignment due, 5-7 pages, to be submitted to the professor by July 18: 

A liberal democratic analysis of country Z. (5-7 pages) How democratic is country Z? If not, why not? How could democracy in that country be improved or strengthened? What is the likelihood of that  happening, and what kind of political developments would cause it to happen?

 To research this paper you should start with the Freedom House country reports (scroll down to bottom of page) at:      Also search in the Journal of Democracy.