Democratization and Inequality

Intermediate—Fall

The last three decades have seen significant growth in the number of democracies around the world. As more countries become democratic, increasing numbers of citizens are formally endowed with political equality. US presidents from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush and Barack Obama have praised the advance of democracy as a key factor in promoting peace both between and within states. This course will investigate and compare processes of democratization from Europe to Latin America and parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. We will explore individual cases of democratization to consider the influence of domestic, as well as foreign, actors and political, as well as economic, conditions. Key questions include: To what extent do similar processes bring about democratic transitions in different regions and moments in time? What role have various forms of violence played in transitions to democracy? We will also explore the domestic and transnational effects of the growing number of new democracies. What impact does a transition to democracy have upon the political influence of ordinary citizens, upon the openness of government institutions, and upon the processes of rule? In what ways does political equality empower citizens? Do transitions to democracy bring about fundamental policy shifts to better meet the needs of the majority? Do citizens of new democracies perceive their democratic government as the best possible regime? Throughout this course, students will investigate the relationship between democracy and different forms of inequality.