Rise and Fall of Democracy (POLS 455)

2023 Fall
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Political Science(POLS)
Berk Esen besen@sabanciuniv.edu,
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SPS101 SPS102
Interactive lecture,Seminar,On-line task/distance
Interactive,Learner centered,Communicative,Discussion based learning
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This course is designed to give the student an understanding of the democratic regime as well as the way in which it has come under attack in the contemporary period. It offers an introduction to the conflicting definitions of the term and addresses such issues as democracy as government and representation. The course reviews the phenomenal rise of electoral democracies after the Third Wave and the proliferation of 'democracy with adjectives' in the global south. Particular emphasis is be placed on those factors and mechanisms that have eroded democratic institutions and facilitated democratic backsliding and breakdown in different parts of the globe.


This course reviews the scholarship on the rise and fall of democratic regimes across the globe. It is designed to give the student an understanding of the democratic regime as well as the ways in which open political systems have come under attack in the contemporary period. The course offers an introduction to the conflicting definitions of the term and studies the phenomenal rise of electoral democracies during the Third Wave and the subsequent proliferation of ?democracy with adjectives?. It then reviews those factors and mechanisms that have gradually eroded democratic institutions and facilitated democratic backsliding and breakdown, particularly during the last decade. In particular, when, why and how democracies die will be explored.
The course also takes advantage of applied learning methods offered by an international cross-university effort that aims to develop a comparative understanding of democratic backsliding around the globe. You can find more information about this project at www.democratic-erosion.com.



1. Understand the world, their country, their society, as well as themselves and have awareness of ethical problems, social rights, values and responsibility to the self and to others. 5

2. Understand different disciplines from natural and social sciences to mathematics and art, and develop interdisciplinary approaches in thinking and practice. 2

3. Think critically, follow innovations and developments in science and technology, demonstrate personal and organizational entrepreneurship and engage in life-long learning in various subjects; have the ability to continue to educate him/herself. 4

4. Communicate effectively in Turkish and English by oral, written, graphical and technological means. 5

5. Take individual and team responsibility, function effectively and respectively as an individual and a member or a leader of a team; and have the skills to work effectively in multi-disciplinary teams. 5

1. Develop knowledge of theories, concepts, and research methods in humanities and social sciences. 5

2. Assess how global, national and regional developments affect society. 5

3. Know how to access and evaluate data from various sources of information. 5

1. Analyze global affairs from international relations and economics perspectives. 4

2. Demonstrate theoretical and practical knowledge of the international affairs. 4

3. Compete for increasing opportunities in careers within the newly emerging global institutions. 5

4. Evaluate the international political events and present their views and positions on international affairs with advanced oral and written skills. 5

1. To analyze national and global events from various social science perspectives. 5

2. To demonstrate theoretical and practical knowledge on political science and international relations and to state views and positions with advanced oral and written skills. 5

3. To compete for increasing career opportunities in national and global institutions. 4

4. To (be able to) understand and follow the changes in political behaviours, opinions and structures. 4

5. To gain the ability to make logical inferences on social and political issues based on comparative and historical knowledge. 5

1. Understand and follow changes in patterns of political behavior, ideas and structures. 5

2. Develop the ability to make logical inferences about social and political issues on the basis of comparative and historical knowledge. 5


  Percentage (%)
Final 40
Midterm 30
Assignment 15
Participation 15



Course Schedule and Readings

Week 1: What is Democracy? Concepts, Processes and Trends

Dahl, Robert A. (1971). Polyarchy. New Haven, CT.: Yale University Press (Ch.1).
Schmitter, Philippe C., and Terry Lynn Karl. (1991). ?What Democracy Is? and Is Not,? Journal of Democracy 2 (3): 75-88.
Huntington, Samuel. (1991). The Third Wave, University of Oklahoma Press, 1991, 13-40.
Sen, Amartya. (1999). ?Democracy as a Universal Value,? Journal of Democracy 10 (3): 3-17.

Week 2: Democratic Consolidation

O?Donnell, Guillermo. (1996). ?Illusions About Consolidation,? Journal of Democracy 7 (2): 34-51.
Schedler, A. (1998). ?What is democratic consolidation??. Journal of democracy, 9 (2): 91-107.
Özbudun, E. (1996). ?Democratization in the Middle East: Turkey-How Far from Consolidation??. Journal of Democracy, 7 (3), 123-138.

Week 3: Democracy with Adjectives

O?Donnell, G. (1994). ?Delegative Democracy,? Journal of Democracy 5 (1): 55-69.
Collier, D., & Levitsky, S. (1997). ?Democracy with adjectives: Conceptual innovation in comparative research?. World politics, 49 (3), 430-451.
Carothers, T. (2002). ?The End of the Transition Paradigm,? Journal of Democracy 13 (1): 5-21.
Taş, H. (2015). ?Turkey?from tutelary to delegative democracy?. Third World Quarterly, 36 (4), 776-791.

Week 4: Democratic Transitions: Structure vs Agency

O?Donnell, Guillermo, and Philippe C. Schmitter, (1986). ?Opening (and Undermining) Authoritarian Regimes,? pp. 15-36 in Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Tentative Conclusions about Uncertain Democracies (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press).
Carothers, T. (2007). How democracies emerge: The" sequencing" fallacy. Journal of democracy, 18(1), 12-27.
Kendall--Taylor, A., & Frantz, E. (2014). ?How autocracies fall?. The Washington Quarterly, 37(1), 35-47.
Haggard, S., & Kaufman, R. R. (2016). Dictators and democrats: Masses, elites, and regime change. Princeton University Press. Ch. 1
Somer, M. (2016). ?Understanding Turkey?s democratic breakdown: Old vs. new and indigenous vs. global authoritarianism?. Southeast European and Black Sea Studies, 16(4), 481-503.

Week 5: Democratic Transitions: Popular Movements/Protests

Kuran, Timur. (1991). ?Now Out of Never: The Element of Surprise in the East European Revolution of 1989?. World Politics, 44:7?48.
Tucker, Joshua A. (2007). ?Enough! Electoral Fraud, Collective Action Problems, and Post-Communist Colored Revolutions.? Perspectives on Politics 5, no. 3 (September): 535-551.
Brancati, Dawn. (2014). ?Pocketbook Protests: Explaining the Emergence of Pro-Democracy Protests Worldwide.? Comparative Political Studies 47, no. 11: 1503-1530.
Rosenfeld, B. (2017).? Reevaluating the middle-class protest paradigm: A case-control study of democratic protest coalitions in Russia?. American Political Science Review, 111(4), 637-652.
Yardimci-Geyikci, Sebnem (2014). ?Gezi Park protests in Turkey: A party politics view?. The Political Quarterly, 85(4), 445-453.

Week 6: Democratic Erosion/Backsliding

Bermeo, Nancy. (2016). ?On Democratic Backsliding,? Journal of Democracy 27(1): 5-19
Levitsky, Steven, and Daniel Ziblatt. (2018). How Democracies Die. New York: Crown. Chapter 1.
Haggard, S., & Kaufman, R. (2021). The anatomy of democratic backsliding. Journal of Democracy, 32(4), 27-41.
Esen, B., & Gumuscu, S. (2016). Rising competitive authoritarianism in Turkey. Third World Quarterly, 37(9), 1581-1606.

Week 7: Democratic Breakdown and Authoritarian Regimes

Geddes, B., Wright, J. G., Wright, J., & Frantz, E. (2018). How dictatorships work: Power, personalization, and collapse. Cambridge University Press. pp 25-43.
Weyland, K. (2020). Populism?s threat to democracy: Comparative lessons for the United States. Perspectives on Politics, 18(2), 389-406.
Cleary, M. R., & Öztürk, A. (2022). When does backsliding lead to breakdown? uncertainty and opposition strategies in democracies at risk. Perspectives on Politics, 20(1), 205-221.
Esen, B., & Gumuscu, S. (2021). Why did Turkish democracy collapse? A political economy account of AKP?s authoritarianism. Party Politics, 27(6), 1075-1091.

Week 8: Populism, demagoguery and post-truth

Mudde, C., & Kaltwasser, C. R. (2017). Populism: A very short introduction. Oxford University Press. Ch. 5.
Levitsky, Steven, and James Loxton. (2013). ?Populism and Competitive Authoritarianism in the Andes,? Democratization 20(1): 107-136.
Esen, Berk, and Şebnem Yardımcı-Geyikçi. (2019). ?An Alternative Account of the Populist Backlash in the United States: A Perspective from Turkey,? PS: Political Science & Politics 52 (3): 445-450.
Subramanian, S. (2017). ?Inside the Macedonian Fake-News Complex,? Wired.
DiResta, R. (2018). ?What We Now Know About Russian Disinformation.? New York Times.
Pomerantsev, P. (2019). ?The Disinformation Age: A Revolution in Propaganda.? The Guardian. July 27, 2019.
Sandal, N. A. (2021). Religious populist parties, nationalisms, and strategies of competition: the case of the AK Party in Turkey. Religion, State & Society, 49 (3), 248-263.

Week 9: Polarization

McCoy, Jennifer, Tahmina Rahman, and Murat Somer. (2018). ?Polarization and the Global Crisis of Democracy: Common Patterns, Dynamics and Pernicious Consequences for Democratic Polities,? American Behavioral Scientist 62 (1): 16-42.
Svolik, Milan W. (2019). ?Polarization Versus Democracy,? Journal of Democracy 30(3): 20-32.
Somer, M. (2019). ?Turkey: The slippery slope from reformist to revolutionary polarization and democratic breakdown?. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 681 (1): 42-61.

Week 10: Military coups, repression and autogolpes

Cameron, M. A. (1998). ?Self-Coups: Peru, Guatemala, and Russia?. Journal of Democracy, 9(1), 125-139.
Quinlivan, J. T. (1999). ?Coup-proofing: Its practice and consequences in the Middle East?. International Security, 24(2), 131-165.
Croissant, A., Kuehn, D., & Eschenauer, T. (2018). ?Mass Protests and the Military?. Journal of Democracy, 29 (3), 141-155.
Geddes, B., Wright, J. G., Wright, J., & Frantz, E. (2018). How dictatorships work: Power, personalization, and collapse. Cambridge University Press. ch. 3
Esen, B. (2021). Praetorian army in action: a critical assessment of civil?military relations in Turkey. Armed Forces & Society, 47(1), 201-222.

Week 11: Authoritarian Durability

Gandhi, Jennifer, and Przeworski, Adam. (2007). ?Authoritarian Institutions and the Survival of Autocrats.? Comparative Political Studies 40, no. 11: 1279?301.
Greene, K. F. (2010). ?The political economy of authoritarian single-party dominance?. Comparative political studies, 43 (7), 807-834.
Levitsky, S., & Way, L. (2022). Revolution and Dictatorship: The Violent Origins of Durable Authoritarianism. Princeton University Press. Ch. 1
Bellin, Eva. (2012). ?Reconsidering the Robustness of Authoritarianism in the Middle East: Lessons from the Arab Spring.? Comparative Politics 44 (2): 127- 149.

Week 12: Opposition Under Hybrid Regimes

Gamboa, L. (2017). ?Opposition at the Margins: Strategies against the Erosion of Democracy?. In Colombia and Venezuela. Comparative Politics, 49(4), 457-477.
Ong, E. (2021). ?What are we voting for? Opposition alliance joint campaigns in electoral autocracies?. Party Politics, 13540688211032367.
Somer, M., McCoy, J. L., & Luke, R. E. (2021). ?Pernicious polarization, autocratization and opposition strategies?. Democratization, 28(5), 929-948.
Selçuk, O., & Hekimci, D. (2020). ?The rise of the democracy?authoritarianism cleavage and opposition coordination in Turkey (2014?2019)?. Democratization, 27(8), 1496-1514.

Week 13: Turkish Regime in Comparative Perspective

Yardımcı-Geyikçi, Ş., & Yavuzyilmaz, H. (2020). Party (de) institutionalization in times of political uncertainty: The case of the Justice and Development Party in Turkey. Party Politics, 28 (1), 71-84.
Kubicek, P. (2020). Faulty assumptions about democratization in Turkey?. Middle East Critique, 29 (3), 245-257.
Arslanalp, M., & Deniz Erkmen, T. (2020). ?Mobile emergency rule in Turkey: legal repression of protests during authoritarian transformation?. Democratization, 1-23.
Demiralp, S., & Balta, E. (2021). Defeating Populists: The Case of 2019 Istanbul Elections?. South European Society and Politics, 26(1): 1-26.
Kahvecioğlu, A., & Patan, S. (2022). ?Embattled Ballots, Quiet Streets: Competitive Authoritarianism and Dampening Anti-Government Protests in Turkey?. South European Society and Politics, 1-27.

Week 14: Future of Democracy?

Lührmann, A., & Lindberg, S. I. (2019). A third wave of autocratization is here: what is new about it?. Democratization, 26 (7): 1095-1113.
Landman, T., & Splendore, L. D. G. (2020). ?Pandemic democracy: elections and COVID-19?. Journal of Risk Research, 23 (7-8): 1060-1066.
Weyland, Kurt (2022). How populism dies: political weaknesses of personalistic plebiscitarian leadership?. Political Science Quarterly, 137 (1): 9-42.
Esen, Berk. (2022). The Opposition Alliance in Turkey: A Viable Alternative to Erdoğan?? SWP Comment. https://www.swp-berlin.org/publikation/the-opposition-alliance-in-turkey-a-viable-alternative-to-erdogan
Esen, Berk. (2022). Post-2023 Election Scenarios in Turkey?. SWP Comment. Forthcoming.