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ΙNSTRUCTOR:  Dimitri A. Sotiropoulos, Professor, University of Athens


Political Change, Democracy and Crisis in Southeast Europe

The course aims at providing students with a comparative and theoretical understanding of the transition to and the consolidation of democracy, and at exploring its various manifestations in Southeastern Europe.

The first four weeks are devoted to a series of lectures providing the theoretical framework for the study of democratisation and examining some of the main theories of the phenomenon and the critique against mainstream theories. Aspects discussed include, inter alia, the formal vs. the substantive concept of democracy; the theoretical and methodological underpinnings as well as the pitfalls of transferring theories initially constructed to interpret democratisation in Southern Europe and Latin America to the analysis of the transformation and fall of state socialist regimes; the five arenas of democratisation; and the distinction between transition to and consolidation of democracy. At the conclusion of the first four weeks, students are expected to have studied the basic bibliography (book chapters or articles byLinzand Stepan and their critics), and be familiar with the broad problems of theorising democratisation. A mid-term test is taken at this point, so as to locate remaining problems in understanding the relevant issues.

The following eight weeks are spent on country case studies, namely on the democratisation of Bulgaria, Romania, Albania and the countries which have emerged in the Western Balkans after the disintegration of Yugoslavia. At this stage, the class concentrates on how democracy has evolved after democratic transition. The development of democratic regimes in these countries is presented and interpreted, focusing on how democracy has functioned since roughly the early 2000s. Students are divided into small work groups combining different ethnicities and disciplines. Each year, six specific thematic topics are studied and presented by the corresponding study group, and discussed in class. Selections include the rule of law, corruption, and the balance of powers among the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government in two or more of the countries under study. Students are required either to make a power point presentation in class or submit a written research paper as part of the course requirements. Book chapters and articles on how democracy functions today in the countries under study and on the selected thematic topics constitute the reading material for the final exams.