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Societies in Transition

15 Credits

This course responds to the key question of what makes states transition from autocracies to democracies and by what methods this transition happens. The wave of transitions and democratisation in South America in the 1980s, in Central and Eastern Europe in the 1990s, and most recently the Arab Spring, has led us to observe different conditions under which regime change may occur.

This is owing to a combination of factors, amongst which: 1. The collapse of ideology; 2. Popular calls for wealth redistribution; 3. Unstable political regime elites; 4. An external anchor (aid, trade, investment, association, membership). Interesting areas of further study are: 1. How and when transition regimes stabilise; 2. What helps in economic transition; 3. How to ensure that civil society becomes vibrant and inclusive; etc.

Finally, we consider when democracy breaks down and how to avoid the pitfalls of societal disillusionment, declining socio-economic standards in the transition period, low electoral turn-out, the traps of historical memory and the protest vote.