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StanfordOnline: Comparative Democratic Development Part II: Structuring Democracy

This course is designed to follow Comparative Democratic Development Part I: Conditions of Democracy. There are no formal prerequisites for this course, although an interest in democracy, democratic structures and institutions, as well as democratic development is key.

Comparative Democratic Development Part II: Structuring Democracy
6 weeks
3–6 hours per week
Progress at your own speed
This course is archived

About this course

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The first part of this course explored the definition and elements of liberal democracy and the social, economic, and cultural conditions for sustaining. It also looked at the dynamics of democracy, taking a more actor-centered approach to examine the drivers of democratic transitions and breakdowns. This second and final part of the course takes a more political approach, asking two questions. First, how do the institutions of liberal democracy vary in design, and what institutional choices seem to offer the best prospects for sustaining liberal democracy? What tensions and tradeoffs must be navigated in designing or reforming democratic institutions? Second, is it possible for external actors to assist in the development and defense of democracy? What types of international policies and practices have been most successful in supporting democracy from abroad, and how can democracy be promoted more effectively?

At a glance

  • Institution: StanfordOnline
  • Subject: Social Sciences
  • Level: Introductory
  • Prerequisites:

    This course is designed to follow Comparative Democratic Development Part I: Conditions of Democracy. There are no formal prerequisites for this course, although an interest in democracy, democratic structures and institutions, as well as democratic development is key.

  • Language: English
  • Video Transcript: English

What you'll learn

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  • Liberal democratic institution design
  • Democratic sustainability
  • Democratic institutional reform
  • External actors and influences in democratic reform
  • Democracy promotion

Week 1

Lecture 1: Constitutional Design

Trade-offs between competing democratic values in constitutional design. The consensual vs. majoritarian models of government. The pros and cons of presidential vs. parliamentary forms of democracy.

Lecture 2: Parties and Party Systems

Why political parties are important to democracy. The criteria of institutionalization and how they apply to political parties. How parties and party systems vary across democracies. Types of political parties and their implications for democracy.

Week 2

Lecture 3: Electoral Systems

Types of majoritarian electoral systems. First Past the Post vs. the Alternative Vote (Ranked Choice Voting) vs. the Two Round Runoff System vs the Single Non-Transferrable Vote. The advantages and disadvantages of majoritarian electoral systems.

Lecture 4: Choosing Between Different Systems

The advantages and disadvantages of proportional representation (PR). Types of PR. Closed vs. open list PR. Mixed electoral systems. Determinants of proporationality: district magnitude and the electoral threshold.

Week 3

Lecture 5: Ethnicity and Ethnic Conflict

What is ethnicity and what is distinctive about ethnic identity? The challenges that ethnic pluralism pose for democracy. When are ethnic divisions most likely to endanger democratic stability?

Lecture 6: Managing Ethnic Conflict

The imperative for wise policies and institutional designs to manage ethnic conflict. Guiding principles for reducing ethnic conflict. Two alternative models of ethnic conflict management: Power sharing (consociational democracy) vs. vote-pooling and inducing moderation. The role of federalism in managing ethnic conflict.

Week 4

Lecture 7: Corruption

What is corruption? The challenge that corruption and state capture pose to democratic stability. Good vs. bad forms of governance. Predatory systems as extremely bad forms of governance that threaten democracy and development. The need for vertical, external and horizontal accountability to control corruption. What are institutions of horizontal accountability and what is necessary for their success? How to get institutional reform.

Lecture 8: International Influences

International demonstration and diffusion effects on regime types. Regional institutions and their formal roles. International mechanisms to support or promote democracy: Foreign aid, sanctions, and diplomacy. The new phenomenon of authoritarian regime promotion, mainly by Russia and China. How democracies should respond.

Week 5

Lecture 9: Democracy Promotion

Should the U.S. and other established democracies use their power and resources to promote or support democracy elsewhere in the world? The debate between realism and idealism in U.S. foreign policy. Forms and instruments of assistance to promote democracy. Historical examples of democracy assistance. Issues and dilemmas in providing democratic assistance. What diplomats can do to promote democracy. How to promote democracy more effectively.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Do I need to buy a textbook?

There is no required textbook for this course, although students are strongly encouraged to follow along with the recommended readings and to seek out other articles as mentioned by Professor Diamond during lecture. The reading list can be found on the course platform, along with links to available articles and downloadable PDFs in the course reader link found at the top of the page. The readings complement and enrich the course lectures. Students are not required to do all the reading, but they are strongly encouraged to read at least one or two articles each week. The more you read, the more you will gain from the class.

How will I be graded in this course?

There will be a review quiz each week and one final exam. Most of the questions will relate to the lecture material but some questions may address key readings. In order to receive a certificate, students must maintain an average score of at least 75% on the weekly quizzes and also on the final exam. (The lowest of the five weekly quiz scores can be dropped to determine the final average.) There will be 2 lectures released each week, excepting week 5, which will have one. Students can expect roughly 10 questions per quiz and will have two attempts to pass. The final exam will be available to students between June 9 and June 26. The exam will cover material from all lectures. There is only one attempt allowed, so please review the course material beforehand and make sure to take it in an area with minimal distractions.

Am I expected to participate in the discussion section of the class?

The discussion forum is an opportunity for you to share your thoughts, comments, or questions about the lectures and readings. The goal is to help students review, distill, discuss, and debate with one another the lecture material (and readings) for each week. Classroom assistants from Stanford University will be available to facilitate conversations, and you can also direct course-related questions to Professor Diamond. Please view the forums as an opportunity to maximize your course experience.

The discussion forums are sorted as follows:

  • Weekly Discussion Forum: To discuss the lectures and readings for that week.

  • Administrative questions: To pose questions to the course staff about the requirements and administration of the course.

  • Democracy news and analysis: To share with your fellow students and the course staff news developments and analysis of particular relevance to the course.

  • Meet other students: To meet online fellow students in the class with particular interests or shared backgrounds.

The online course forums are an extension of our classroom. Abusive or hateful speech will not be tolerated, and any such comments will be removed at the moderators' discretion. Please be respectful of one another and follow the University Code of Conduct: Stanford University is an institution dedicated to the pursuit of excellence and facilitation of an environment that fosters this goal. Central to that institutional commitment is the principle of treating each University Community member fairly and with respect, and embracing diversity and inclusion.

The University prohibits discrimination and harassment and provides equal opportunities for all Community members and applicants regardless of their race, color, religious creed, national origin, ancestry, physical or mental disability, medical condition, marital status, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status or any other characteristic protected by law.

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