Course level: Master

Fall and Spring term
University of Zurich

Two-term Master’s-level Research Seminar in ‘Democracy, Development, and International Relations’

Against the backdrop of stalling democratization processes on the one hand, and tendencies towards autocratization on the other, we study how recent processes of democratization, such as those in Latin America, differ from their historical counterparts in Western Europe. Do new democracies simply undergo similar processes much later, or are there fundamental differences? Central to this discussion will be modernization theory, the structuralist account, and actor-centered approaches. While the structuralist school often adopts a comparative historical approach, proponents of modernization approach primarily use quantitative data to substantiate their claims. However, the two schools also differ in whether they understand democracy as a result of consensus or conflict between social groups. Recent actor-centered approaches, on the other hand, use mixed-methods approaches and combine different explanatory factors. Among these are processes of diffusion as well as international influences, which can affect the prospects for democracy in positive or negative ways depending on the historical context. In the last part of the seminar, we address the current discussion on democratic erosion and the role of populism in both old and new democracies. During the second term, students develop their own research projects, and progress is discussed in group workshops.

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