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This course focuses on the five countries of the Andean region of South American (Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia). It contrasts the current governance and economic policy approaches taken by the five countries as a means of analysing variables linked to the consolidation of democracy and sustained economics development.
In his provocative 1992 book The End of History and the Last Man, Francis Fukuyama wrote that Western liberal democracy had displaced other political systems and would quickly become the only universally accepted way of organizing politics. Fast forward 30 years, and his prediction seems naïve. Observers around the world warn of imminent threats to democracy in both Western and non-Western countries, and non-democratic powers like China and Russia offer alternative forms of governance that appeal to many global leaders. Democracy seems to be eroding.
This course asks whether, in fact, liberal democracy is being displaced by other forms of governance. Is democracy in the world eroding? If so, what does democratic erosion in the contemporary period look like, why is it happening, and how does it differ from processes of democratic breakdown in earlier historical periods? If processes of democratic erosion are underway, how can they be resisted and democracy strengthened? To address these questions, this course explores democratic breakdown and erosion in comparative and historical perspective. We examine countries from around the world, using readings from academic and media sources to examine both empirical and normative questions about the quality and persistence of democracy.
This course is part of a cross-university collaboration. Faculty from across 40 universities teach from the same syllabus, with students contributing to a collaborative database on democratic erosion and writing for the Democratic Erosion blog. This course helps bridge the gap between the classroom and the public sphere and allows you to be part of a larger discussion about the quality of contemporary democracy.
The destruction of human beings in the Soviet labor camps (GULAG) is one of the most tragic chapters in the history of the twentieth century. Between the early 1920s and the early 1950s, some 25 million people were arrested and sent to the so-called "correction-labor" camps to perform back breaking work under the most inhumane conditions. The focus of this course is on the history and culture of the Stalin labor camps. Beginning with the violence inflicted by the young Bolshevik regime on the Russian people, we will examine the creation of a network of camps during the "great terror" of 1937-1938 and the economic, political, and cultural features of the camps, through such topics as work, food, camp administration and guards, the relationship between the "political prisoners" and the common criminals, the special plight of women, the hardening of conditions in the camps during and after World War II and the zenith of the GULAG in the early 1950s. Finally, the course will examine the GULAG's demise and the experience of dissidents in the camps of the 1960s-1980s; the way modern-day Russia deals with the memory of the camps; and GULAG-style camps in several socialist countries.