Democracy, Dictatorship and Regime Change

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Monday 17 January 2022
Friday 25 March 2022
23 September 2021


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This module studies political regimes and regime change. It will introduce classic theories, current debates, and state-of-the-art tools in the field of democratisation.

While the number of democratic regimes across the globe grew between the mid-1970s and mid-2000s, it has declined in the last decade and, now, democracy seems to be under attack even in some of its oldest bastions in North America and Western Europe.

This raises a number of fundamental questions. What difference does it make to live in a democracy over a dictatorship? How does democracy emerge and what makes it endure? When do democratic revolutions occur? What do the authoritarians do to prevent them? Can democracy be exported? When and how do democracies break down? These are just some of the questions that will be tackled.

Although the module employs historical examples and case studies (e.g., democratisation in Central and Eastern Europe or in Latin America), a particular focus lies on the latest political developments (e.g. the Arab Spring, democratic backsliding in Turkey, the rise of illiberal democracy in Hungary and Poland etc.).

Module aims

This module aims to provide students with conceptual tools, theories, and methods to make sense of the world’s changing political landscape. By adopting a scientific approach to the study of major political developments and transformations, it seeks to help students develop sound research aptitudes.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the on-going political transformations and challenges to democratic regimes
2. Formulate analytical questions and develop cogent fact-based arguments in relation to the study of major political developments and transformations.
3. Find relevant information on current political regimes, critically assess it, and incorporate it into a coherent narrative.
4. Master complex political realities and abstract concepts.

Module information

Week 1 - Introduction: Historical Trends in Democratisation
Week 2 - Democracy: Definitions, Concepts, and Measures
Week 3 - Dictatorships: Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes
Week 4 - Democratisation: Structural Explanations
Week 5 - Democratisation: Agency Approach
Week 6 - Democratisation Paths
Week 7 - Democratic Consolidation: What Makes Democracy Endure?
Week 8 - Political Regimes and Development
Week 9 - Contemporary Authoritarianism: Forms and Tools
Week 10 - Contemporary Challenges and Future Prospects for Democracy

Learning and teaching methods

10 x 1hr lectures 10 x 1hr tutorials


  • Huntington, Samuel P. (1991) 'What? The Start of the Third Wave', in The third wave: democratization in the late twentieth century, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. vol. v. 4, pp.3-30
  • Huntington, Samuel P. (1991) The third wave: democratization in the late twentieth century, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. vol. v. 4
  • Cheibub, Jose Antonio; Przeworski, Adam; Limongi Neto, Fernando Papaterra; Alvarez, Michael M. (1996) 'What Makes Democracies Endure?', in Journal of Democracy. vol. 7 (1) , pp.39-55
  • Levitsky, Steven; Way, Lucan. (2002) 'The Rise of Competitive Authoritarianism', in Journal of Democracy. vol. 13 (2) , pp.51-65
  • Schmitter, Philippe C; Karl, Terry Lynn. (1991) 'What Democracy Is. . . and Is Not', in Journal of Democracy. vol. 2 (3) , pp.75-88
  • Valerie J. Bunce; Wolchik, Sharon L. (2010) 'Defeating Dictators: Electoral Change and Stability in Competitive Authoritarian Regimes', in World Politics. vol. 62 (1) , pp.43-86
  • Francis Fukuyama. (2012) The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution: Profile Books Ltd; Main edition.
  • Koesel, Karrie J.; Bunce, Valerie J. (2013-09) 'Diffusion-Proofing: Russian and Chinese Responses to Waves of Popular Mobilizations against Authoritarian Rulers', in Perspectives on Politics. vol. 11 (3) , pp.753-768
  • Fukuyama, Francis. (2015) 'Why Is Democracy Performing So Poorly?', in Journal of Democracy. vol. 26 (1) , pp.11-20
  • Carles Boix; Stokes, Susan C. (2003) 'Endogenous Democratization', in World Politics. vol. 55 (4) , pp.517-549
  • McFaul, Michael. (2002-01) 'The Fourth Wave of Democracy Dictatorship: Noncooperative Transitions in the Postcommunist World', in World Politics. vol. 54 (2) , pp.212-244
  • Rustow, Dankwart A. (1970-04) 'Transitions to Democracy: Toward a Dynamic Model', in Comparative Politics. vol. 2 (3) , pp.337-
  • Francis Fukuyama. (2015) Political Order and Political Decay: Profile Books.
  • Schmitter, Philippe C. (2018) 'From Transitology to Consolidology', in Democratisation in the 21st century: reviving transitology, London: Routledge.
  • Carles Boix. (2019) Democratic Capitalism at the Crossroads, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Kitschelt, Herbert; Mansfeldova, Zdenka; Markowski, Radoslaw; Toka, Gabor. (1999) 'Historical Legacies and Strategies of Democratization: Pathways toward Post-Communist Polities', in Post-Communist Party Systems: Competition, Representation, and Inter-Party Cooperation, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press., pp.19-42
  • Lipset, Seymour Martin. (1959-03) 'Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy', in American Political Science Review. vol. 53 (1) , pp.69-105
  • Grugel, Jean; Bishop, Matthew Louis. (2014) Democratization: a critical introduction, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Online Quiz    20% 
Coursework   Essay  26/04/2022  80% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Module Supervisor: Allyson Benton. Module Administrator: Edmund Walker govquery@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

No external examiner information available for this module.
Available via Moodle
Of 400 hours, 20 (5%) hours available to students:
380 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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