Democracy and democratisation PS3086

This course considers various aspects of the conditions of democracy, the processes of democratisation, and the breakdown of democratic regimes.


If taken as part of a BSc degree, courses which must be passed before this course may be attempted:

PS1172 Introduction to political science or PS1114 Democratic politics and the State or PS1130 Introduction to modern political thought.

Topics covered

Conceptualising democracy: General criteria for democracy, and particular forms of semi-democracy. Delegative democracy, illiberal democracy and biased states. Democratic consolidation.

Process of democratisation: Paths to democracy. Comparative historical studies.

Conditions of Democracy and its maintenance: The concept of democratic legitimacy and the functioning of liberal democracy in advanced capitalist societies.

Transitions to Democracy: Forms of non-democracy and transitional paths towards democratisation.

Democratic breakdown and reconstruction: Mass society theories and theories of class conflict. Modernisation theory and later criticisms. Democracy and war. Democratic reconstruction and its problems.

Learning outcomes

If you complete the course successfully, you should be able to:

  • Explain how democracy actually works in real world conditions
  • Explain how democracy relates to the non-elective institutions of the state
  • Discuss different ways in which democracy can work badly
  • Outline the essential arguments of comparative historical sociologists of democratisation, such as Moore and Rueschemeyer
  • Explain how some forms of non-democracy can make the transition to democracy
  • Assess theories of democratic breakdown in relatively poor countries and arguments for developmental dictatorship
  • Discuss why democracy has survived in wealthy countries.


Unseen written exam (3 hrs).

Essential reading

  • Dahl, R.A. Democracy and its Critics. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Fukuyama, F. The End of History and the Last Man. London: Penguin.
  • Galbraith, J.K. The Culture of Contentment. London: Sinclair-Stevenson.
  • Held, D. Models of Democracy. Cambridge: Polity.
  • Linz, J. and A. Stepan. Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation: Southern Europe, South America, and Post-Communist Europe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Lipset, S.M. Political Man: the Social Bases of politics. London: Heinemann.
  • Moore, B. The Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World. London: Penguin.
  • Przeworski, A. Democracy and the Market: Political and Economic Reforms in Eastern Europe and Latin America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Rueschemeyer, D., E. Stephens and J. Stephens. Capitalist Development and Democracy. University of Chicago Press with Polity Press.
  • Schumpeter, J. Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. London: Allen and Unwin.
  • Whitehead, L. Democratization: Theory and Experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Carsten, Q. and Philippe C. Schmitter. ‘Liberalization, transition and consolidation: measuring the components of democratization’, Democratization, 11(5) 2004, pp.59-90.
  • Huntington, Samuel P. ‘The Clash of Civilizations?’, Foreign Affairs, S93, 72(3) 1993, pp.22–49.
  • O’Donnell, G. ‘Delegative Democracy’, Journal of Democracy, 5(1) 1994, pp.55-69. Available online at
  • Zakaria, F. ‘The Rise of Illiberal Democracy’, Foreign Affairs, 76(6) 1997, pp.22–43.

Course information sheets

Download the course information sheets from the LSE website.