Comparative Democratic Development Part I: Conditions of Democracy


Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences



Democratic Development is intended as a broad, introductory survey of the political, social, cultural, economic, institutional, and international factors that foster and obstruct the development and consolidation of democracy.  Each factor will be examined in historical and comparative perspective, with reference to a variety of different national experiences.  It is hoped that students in developing or prospective democracies will use the theories, ideas, and lessons in the class to help build or improve democracy in their own countries.

This course is primarily intended for individuals in college or beyond, with some academic background or preparation in political science or the social sciences. However, it seeks to be accessible and useful to a diverse international audience, including college students, instructors at the second and college levels, government officials, development professionals, civil society leaders, journalists, bloggers, activists, and individuals involved in a wide range of activities and professions related to the development and deepening of democracy.

Course Syllabus

Week 1 
Introduction to the Course, Why Democracy? 
What Is Democracy? Regime Types 
The Third Wave of Democratization and its Ebb  

Week 2 
Legitimacy, Authority and Effectiveness 
Democratic Consolidation 

Week 3 
Political Culture and Democracy 
Are Democratic Values Universal? 

Week 4 
Economic Development 
Class Structure and Inequality 
Civil Society 

Week 5 
Democratic Transition: Paths and Drivers 
Democratic Transition: Types and Means 

Week 6 
Constitutional Design 
Presidential vs. Parliamentary Government 
Parties and Party Systems 

Week 7 
Electoral Systems 
Choosing between Different Systems 

Week 8 
Ethnicity and Ethnic Conflict 
Managing Ethnic Conflict 

Week 9 
Horizontal Accountability and the Rule of Law 
Controlling Corruption 
Democratic Breakdowns 

Week 10 
International Factors 
Promoting Democracy

Week 11
The Future of Democracy


Who should take this class? 
We've geared the class toward individuals from all kinds of backgrounds who may already be involved in developing and deepening democracy, and who are now seeking more formal training and a comprehensive conceptual framework of the factors (and choices) involved in democratic consolidation. This includes development professionals, civil society leaders, journalists, bloggers, activists, government officials, and educators at the secondary and college levels. However, the course will be accessible and useful to a diverse international audience, so anyone interested in the subject of democracy is also welcome to participate. 

What resources will I need for this class?
Course topics will be thoroughly covered in the video lectures, and assignments will be based on those lectures. We will also provide optional reading, free of charge, for those interested in further deepening their understanding of democracy. The articles and book excerpts are optional, but highly recommended, for those who wish to gain a greater mastery of each week's topics.

Will I get a Statement of Accomplishment after completing this class?
To receive a Statement of Accomplishment, students must watch video lectures and complete weekly assessments. They must also pass the final exam. A second, more rigorous track involves the optional reading. Students who complete bonus assignments and an additional portion of the final exam demonstrating knowledge of the readings can attain a Statement of Accomplishment with Distinction. 

What are some unique things that Democratic Development will offer?
In exploring a highly relevant subject, the instructional team will seek to implement diverse ways for you to engage with the material and interact with your fellow students. We know many of you bring in-the-field knowledge and unique experiences to the table, and we hope you'll share it with the Democratic Development community! You can also look forward to a special guest or two during the course of the MOOC.

Enroll Now

Delivery Option:
Online Course Free

This course may not currently be available to learners in some states and territories.