• Offered by Department of Political and Social Change
  • ANU College ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
  • Classification Advanced
  • Course subject Political Science
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Prof Edward Aspinall
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Offered in First Semester 2024
    See Future Offerings

Students undertaking this course remotely may have issues accessing materials online, please contact the CAP Student Centre for more information.

This graduate-level seminar course introduces students to the major debates that have animated scholarly literature on the rise, nature and breakdown of democracy. It takes participants through a series of core texts from the last fifty years concerning how democracy is best defined, how and under what conditions democratic regimes come into place and break down, and how democracy interacts with other important political and social phenomena (such as inequality and ethnicity), as well as on authoritarian alternatives to democracy. The later parts of the course focus on contemporary challenges facing democracy worldwide. Students will be expected to critically assess alternative approaches to the study of democratic regimes and breakdown, and to apply the theories they encounter through comparative analysis of historical and contemporary cases.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

1. Engage with various approaches to comparative analysis of democratic regimes, democratization, democratic breakdown and challenges facing contemporary democracy.

2. Critically assess the quality of alternative approaches to the study of democracy and the assumptions that underpin these approaches.

3. Be able to apply contending theories to historical and contemporary cases

4. Communicate knowledgably on contending approaches to the study of democracy and their relevance to the contemporary world.

Indicative Assessment

1. Critical Discussion (10%) [LO 3,4]

2. Reading response papers (20%) [LO 2,3,4]

3. Critical Review Essay (20%) [LO 1,2,4]

4. Research Essay (50%) [LO 1,4]

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


3-hour weekly seminar (x 12). 8 hours personal study. Extensive reading (100-250 pages per week). Regular written assignments 4/12 weeks). 2 major written assignments (2,000 words & 5,000 words).

Preliminary Reading

Diamond, Larry. 2008. The Spirit of Democracy: The Struggle to Build Free Societies around the World. Macmillan.

Students will read extracts from all books cited.

Week 1: Defining democracy, comparing regimes.
• Przeworski, Adam. (1999) "Minimalist Conception of Democracy: A Defense." In Democracy's Value, edited by Ian Shapiro and Casiano Hacker-Cordón, New York: Cambridge University Press.
• Heller, Patrick. "Degrees of Democracy: Some Comparative Lessons from India." World Politics 52, no. 4 (2000): 484-519.
• Dahl, Robert A. (1971). Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition. New Haven: Yale University Press.
• Linz, Juan J. (1975) "Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes", in N. Polsby and F. Greenstein, eds.,
 Handbook of Political Science, vol. 3 Reading, Mass.: Addison Wesley Press, pp. 175-411, 1975,

Week 2: Historical development
• Acemoglu, Daron & Robinson, James. (2006). Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.
• Moore, Barrington, Jr. (1966). Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World. Cambridge: Beacon Press.
• Stephens, John D., Dietrich Rueschemeyer and Evelyne Huber Stephens (1992) Capitalist Development and Democracy. Polity.
• Luebbert, G. M. (1987). "Social foundations of political order in interwar Europe." World Politics: A Quarterly Journal of International Relations: 449-478.

Week 3: Democratization
• O’Donnell, Guillermo  and Philippe C. Schmitter (1986) Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Tentative Conclusions about Uncertain Democracies. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
• Huntington, Samuel P. (1993)  The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late 20th Century. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
• Przeworski, Adam, Alvarez, Michael, Cheibub, Jose, & Limongi, Fernando. (2000). Democracy and Development: Political Institutions and Well Being in the World, 1950- 1990. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Week 4: Democratic consolidation and breakdown
• Linz, Juan J. and Alfred Stepan (1978) The Breakdown of Democratic Regimes. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
• Linz, Juan J.  and Alfred Stepan (1996) Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation: Southern Europe, South America, and Post-Communist Europe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
• Carothers, Thomas (2002) "The End of the Transition Paradigm", Journal of Democracy, Volume 13, Number 1, pp. 5-21.
• Bermeo, Nancy G. (2003). Ordinary people in extraordinary times : the citizenry and the breakdown of democracy. Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press.

Week 5: Democracy and  inequality
• Boix, Carles. (2003). Democracy and Redistribution. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.
• Ben Ansell and David Samuels. (2014) Inequality and Democratization: An Elite-Competition Approach. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
• Various pieces in American Political Science Association, Comparative Democratization newsletter. October 2013.

Week 6: Democracy and ethnicity
• Lijphart, Arend (1977). Democracy in Plural Societies: A Comparative Exploration. New Haven: Yale University Press.
• Chandra, Kanchan (2004)  Why Ethnic Parties Succeed: Patronage and Ethnic Head Counts in India. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.
• Posner, Daniel N (2005) Institutions and Ethnic Politics in Africa. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.

Week 7: Democracy, governance, corruption
Johnston, Michael (2005) (Syndromes of Corruption: Wealth, Power, and Democracy. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University  Press.
Mungiu-Pippidi, Alina (2015) The Quest for Good Governance. How Societies Develop Control of Corruption, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.
Rothstein, Bo (2011) The Quality of Government. Corruption, Social Trust and Inequality in International Perspective. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Week 8: Clientelism and democracy
Kitschelt, Herbert and Steven I. Wilkinson (2006) (eds.) Patrons, Clients and Policies: Patterns of Democratic Accountability and Political Competition. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.
Stokes, Susan C., Thad Dunning, Marcelo Nazareno and Valeria Brusco (2013) Brokers, Voters, and Clientelism: The Puzzle of Distributive Politics. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.

Week 9: The persistence of authoritarianism
• Slater, Dan (2010). Ordering Power: Contentious Politics and Authoritarian Leviathans in Southeast Asia. New York, Cambridge University Press.
• Gandhi, J. and A. Przeworski (2007). "Authoritarian institutions and the survival of autocrats." Comparative Political Studies 40(11): 1279-1301.
• Pepinsky, Thomas (2013). "The Institutional Turn in Comparative Authoritarianism." British Journal of Political Science: 1-23.
• Svolik, M. W. (2012). The politics of authoritarian rule. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
• Bueno de Mesquita, B., A. Smith, R. M. Siverson and J. D. Morrow (2005). The logic of political survival. Cambridge, MIT Press.
• Sassoon, J. (2016). Anatomy of authoritarianism in the Arab republics. New York, Cambridge University Press.

Week 10: Electoral authoritarianism
• Levitsky, Steven and Lucan A. Way (2010) Competitive Authoritarianism: Hybrid Regimes after the Cold War
Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press
• Zakaria, F. (1997). "The Rise of Illiberal Democracy." Foreign Affairs 76: 22.
• Schedler, Andreas (2015). Electoral Authoritarianism. Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
• Brownlee, Jason (2007). Authoritarianism in an age of democratization. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.
• Gandhi, J. and E. Lust-Okar (2009). "Elections under authoritarianism." Annual Review of Political Science 12: 403-422.

Week 11: The populist challenge
• Moffitt, Benjamin (2016) The Global Rise of Populism: Performance, Political Style, and Representation. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
• Kenny, Paul (2016) Populism and Patronage: Why Populists win Elections in India, Asia, and Beyond. New York: Oxford University Press.
• Judis, John B. (2016). The populist explosion: how the great recession transformed American and European politics. New York, Columbia Global Reports.

Week 12: Democratic regression
Foa, Roberto Stefan  and Yascha Mounk (2017) "The Signs of Deconsolidation", Journal of Democracy, Volume 28, Number 1, pp.5-15.
Diamond, Larry (2015) "Facing up to the Democratic Recession", Journal of Democracy Volume 26, Number

Assumed Knowledge

This course is intended for masters students. Upper-level undergraduates may take the course subject to the approval of the instructor. Some prior experience with political science or a related discipline in social science is recommended.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2024 $4440
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2024 $6360
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
3506 19 Feb 2024 26 Feb 2024 05 Apr 2024 24 May 2024 In Person View

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions