The Political Economy of Regime Change

Course Description: 

Over the last four decades, the world has witnessed the transition of political and economic regimes - from autocracies to democracies and various types of political regimes in between, and from closed to open market economies and back. The current situation provides ground for disparate, and sometimes outright contradictory, diagnoses about the present state of democracy around the globe, its future development, and the interaction between economic and political processes. Clear non-democracies like China show economic growth rates that are overwhelming both in size and duration, while rulers in Russia and elsewhere could profit from a resource boom that has enabled them to devise sophisticated measures to secure their power and turn their political system into hybrid regimes. At the same time, popular uprisings in the Middle East and Northern Africa have brought down long-standing dictators and set in motion counter-reactions that have led in most of the cases to the reinstatement of some form of repressive authoritarian regime. Meanwhile, democracy is in crisis even in its heartland in the North-Western hemisphere, not least due to profound economic transformations and changes.

This course is designed to give a broad overview of the literature on the processes of economic and political regime change and their interaction in the early and late 20th and early 21st century. There are four main parts: I. Core concepts and theories; II. Historical Perspectives; III. Contemporary Issues; IV Student presentations. The aim is to provide students with the analytic tools, theories, and concepts that enable them to make better sense of the current economic and political processes in countries around the globe, with a special emphasis on the link between economic and political changes. The list of concepts discussed is comprised of, among others, types of transitions, political regime types, the consolidation, and the qualities of democracy, and forms of economic systems. The topic of this course will be dealt with from a global perspective. We will thus attempt to capture cases and evidence from different world regions. 

Learning Outcomes: 

The overall grade will primarily indicate the ability of the students to handle the core concepts and questions in the literature on political regime changes with special focus on political economy. The learning outcomes of the PhD program are supported and measured by the present course in the following ways: The ability to critically assess scholarly arguments, which are based on empirical research; to write an academic paper using an appropriate scholarly tone. The skill of formulating researchable questions is primarily measured by the second, bigger, presentation. The ability to orally present an academic argument is assessed through the two in-class presentations and the in-class participation. The skills to analyze contemporary events related to political regime change and to employ cutting-edge methods are reflected by the bigger presentation. Students will also be exposed to, and expect to critically reflect on, general issues in doing comparative social research, such as concept formation (i.e. how to define, conceptualize, and measure the phenomenon under study) and different strategies of drawing inference from observational data.


The course meets twice a week. Most meetings will be a mix between lecture and seminar. The grading will be composed of the following items:

(1) You are expected to be actively present at all sessions. In case you are unable to attend, you need to inform us via email prior to our class. Unexcused missed classes are graded with zero points. You are expected to reflect critically on the mandatory readings and to show such reflection by active and stimulating interaction in class. Activity in the classroom can be complemented with questions, suggestions, and comments to be sent to us prior to our next meeting.

(2) Each student will have to do two presentations in class. The first one is shorter (not more than 15-20 minutes) and it must be on one of the topics that we are dealing with in sessions 1 – 10 and 13 - 22. These short presentations must be single-authored. The goal of the presentation is to get the in-class discussion going.

(3) The second presentation is more extensive (around 50 minutes). You are free to choose the topic of the presentation, but it needs to be confirmed by us prior to week 8 the latest. The presentation should contain empirical data based on which you try to make analytically plausible and substantively interesting points. At least one week prior to your presentation, you are asked to distribute a list of one (!) required and minimum two recommended readings to all course participants. After your presentation you remain in the role of the leader and moderator of the follow-up discussion in class.

(4) You are expected to review two books. You can either write two separate book reviews (900-1000 words each, reference list not included), or one single paper that reviews two books together (1700-1900 words, reference list not included). You are free to choose the books, but your choice needs to be approved by us. You can choose books that are on the same topic as your (long) presentation. Edited volumes and books older than five years should be chosen based on well-argued reasons. The precise deadline for the paper will be communicated in due time.

Evaluation of Requirements

(1) In-class participation: 15%

(2) Smaller first presentation: 15%

(3) Second bigger presentation: 35%

(4) Book review: 35%

For MA-level students, the following evaluation criteria apply:

(1) In-class participation: 25%

(2) Smaller first presentation: 30%

(3) Book review: 45%

According to policies of the Department of Political Science, late submissions of written assignments will be downgraded in the following manner:

- 1 minute to 24 hours late: 1 grading point

- 24.1 hours to 48 hours: 2 grading points

- etc.

A violation of the word limit leads to the following downgrading:

- each 5 percent deviation from word limit: 1 grading point

The grading follows the standard scale adopted by Central European University:

A: 100-96; A-: 95-88; B+: 87-80; B: 79-71; B-: 70-63; C+: 62-58; F: 57-

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