Democracy is one word we hear very often in public discourse but do we have the slightest inkling what the word actually means? Francis Fukuyama’s 1992 book “The End of History and the Last Man” heralded the final triumph of Western liberal democracy over Communism as symbolized by the fall of Soviet Union in 1991. Liberal democracy’s cheerleaders claim that it is the only true way to organize a society that maximizes both the needs and rights of the community and individuals that comprise the community. But is it true? Is democracy the most ideal type of political governance for a human community? It will be our aim this semester to study the concept of democracy and question its validity as a system of governance. The course’s main objectives are threefold: 1) to introduce and discuss the basic ideas that underpin the type of political governance we know as democracy by tracing its roots to the ancient Greece and its subsequent evolution throughout history; 2) to compare basic aspects of democracy such as electoral systems, the role of civil society and various natures of executive power, and also democracy with other forms of political governance; and 3) to look at the factors that lead to the rise and fall of democracy in the last one hundred years especially the pervasiveness of populist politics seen in recent times. The course will use case studies from all over the world to illustrate and analyze aspects of democracy covered in the syllabus.
Skill Level: Beginner