Nationalism and Democracy

Academic Year: 
US Credits: 
ECTS Credits: 
Course Code: 
NATI 5073
Course Description: 

Nationalism and Democracy resemble a couple in a stormy marriage. In the origin of
(Western) democracies, the two were symbiotic: democracy often implied the imagination of
a nation. Vice-versa, nationalism in its historical shape also implies the liberation of the
people from authoritarian rule, and the introduction of self-rule. Nevertheless, nationalism
today is often characterised as the enemy of (liberal) democracy. In the course of the
transition towards democracy, (ethnic) nationalism often appears as a side-product, leading
to civic conflicts and/or ethnocracies, rather than democracy.

This course scrutinises the connection of nationalism and democracy. Thereby, it makes a
tour d’horizon of several political science perspectives on nationalism. It starts with
authoritarian political regimes, and the role of nationalism in the course of the transition
towards democracy. It discusses why the introduction of democratic rule can lead to’
mobilisation along ethnic lines, and/or ethnic conflict. It looks at the rise of nationalist
parties and populism, both in established democracies and democratising states. It compares
democratic citizenship regimes, and relates them to the notion of the nation. And it analyses
to what extent public opinions and political cleavages are linked to the nation. Last but not
least, the course analyses which models of democracy are best suited for multicultural societies, looking at political institutions (federalism, power-sharing), as well as at minority rights.

Most of the course is based on empirical studies from contemporary multicultural regimes,
qualitative and quantitative, complemented with some readings on historical cases, and
theoretical contributions. Some of the class hours will be devoted to research methods in
empirical political science/social sciences.

Learning Outcomes: 

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
 Students will be familiar with basic concepts from comparative politics.
 Students will be able to distinguish and analyse political regimes and
 Get an insight into contemporary shapes and problems of nationalism.
 Understand the logic of comparative studies in political science/social science, and
being capable of decipher such research
 Develop a research design for a comparative empirical study, and conduct and write an empirical analysis


Attendance and active class-room participation (10 %)

Expert for one week or session (30% of the grade) Participants have to prepare for an expert discussion in class, based on specific preparatory readings.

- Groups of experts will be assigned to a specific week, and a list of suggested readings.

- Based on these readings, instead of a full review, they hand in a list of questions to be discussed in class (2-3 questions per person), by e-mail, and a short elaboration on each of these questions/themes, max. 1 page per person. Ideally, the list of questions combines a) some theoretical aspects, b) methodological issues, and c) it refers to exemplary cases. Show how the questions/themes relate to the required readings. Reading lists can be altered, in agreement between the lecturer and the experts.

- In class, students will be require to respond to questions in a cohesive way, but do not prepare a linear presentation (see below). Approx. 8-10 minutes per person. The topic of the expert discussion can overlap with the topic of the paper, which the student writes in the second semester of the seminar.

- Expert discussions take place between week 3 and week 12.

- The list of questions needs to be submitted 11 days prior to the class (when the students serve as experts), and 24 hours prior to a preparatory meeting. (I.e. enrol for an office hour no later than 10 days before your ‘expert week’).

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