Course 2018-2019 a.y.


Department of Social and Political Sciences

Course taught in English
Go to class group/s: 31
BIG (6 credits - II sem. - OBS  |  SPS/04)
Course Director:

Classes: 31 (II sem.)

Mission & Content Summary


Throughout the 20th century, we have witnessed a rapid spread of democracy around the world. As of the end of 2016, 97 out of 167 countries with populations of at least 500,000 were democracies. However, the process of democratization has not always translated into the creation of stable democratic institutions that were able to survive the political and economic challenges they have to face. As a consequence, a large share of the world’s population lives in non-democratic regimes. The mission of this course is to explore the varieties of political regimes around the world, focusing particularly on democratic and authoritarian regimes and analyzing the different institutional arrangements within democracies and within autocracies. Our examination of the institutions and the stability of these regimes are theory driven, with the aim to explain both the origins and implications of political institutions. We also analyze the available empirical evidence so as to evaluate the ability of various theories to explain observed patterns.


The course focuses on democratization and authoritarian transitions, consolidation of democracy, democratic institutions, authoritarian survival, and consequences of regime type for a wide range of economic and political outcomes. The course is structured in 3 macro modules. The first two are each focused on a particular regime type and are divided roughly into two sections, while the third compares the two regime types:

  1. Democratic regimes:
    • Democratic institutions and stability.
    • New challenges to democratic regimes.
  2. Authoritarian regimes:
    • Authoritarian institutions.
    • Tactics of authoritarian survival.
  3. Comparing Authoritarian and Democratic Regimes.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Identify the main factors that are responsible for democratic stability and for democratization.
  • Recognize how a certain institutional arrangement within an authoritarian regime responds to the autocrat’s need to survive in office.
  • Establish differences in institutional arrangement, incentives for leaders, and economic and political outcomes produced across different political regimes.


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Use the theoretical and empirical insights presented during the course to assess the risk of democratic or authoritarian transition in a country, given a set of institutions and of social, political, and economic characteristics.
  • Interpret the behavior of leaders in democratic and authoritarian regimes in the real world through the lenses of the key incentives these leaders face.

Teaching methods

  • Face-to-face lectures
  • Guest speaker's talks (in class or in distance)


  • Lectures are structured according to the standard format: the instructor presents and elaborate on the material contained in the required readings, which the students have read before class, so as to enhance in-class discussions and students’ participation.
  • Some lectures are held by professors who are leading experts on the topic treated in the lecture. This allow students to learn additional insights from experts who have actively contributed to the scientific literature on a certain topic.
  • Attendance: some of the assigned readings feature a high degree of sophistication in terms of methods of analysis. Therefore, students’ attendance is strongly recommended. In fact, although no formal prerequisites are required, the lectures provide students some necessary (yet informal) background that helps them gain a better understanding of those readings that include a technical component. The attendance is measured by the specific app available to all students. To qualify as an attending student and be allowed to take the partial exam, an attendance rate equal to or higher than 75% must be reported.

Assessment methods

  Continuous assessment Partial exams General exam
  • Written individual exam (traditional/online)


With the purpose of measuring the acquisition of the above-mentioned learning outcomes, the student assessment is based on two main components, a partial written exam and a final written exam, each making up 50% of the final grade, and both based on a mix of multiple-choice and open questions. Multiple choice questions are designed to test the students’ knowledge of the basic fundamental concepts and notions about different political regimes, the source of their stability/frailty, and the various rationales behind their institutional makeup. Open-ended questions are aimed at evaluating the students’ ability to establish connections between findings reported in different readings and to use these connections to evaluate the prospects of democratization or authoritarian transition of countries characterized by a particular set of institutions and of social, political, and economic conditions. The partial exam focuses on the readings covered in the first part of the course, which mainly address questions on democratic institutions and stability, while the final written exam focuses on the readings covered in the second part of the course, which mainly address questions on authoritarian institutions and survival, and on the comparison between democracies and autocracies in terms of economic and political outcomes.


Written general exam, (100% of the finale grade) based on a mix of multiple-choice and open questions, which aims to assess the student’s ability to describe the main theoretical and empirical findings contained in the readings covered over the course of the semester.

Teaching materials


The required readings for this course are scientific articles and book chapters that represent the key and/or state of the art contributions to the different topics analyzed. A complete list of the required and suggested reading are provided at the beginning of the course and are available on Bboard.

Last change 22/06/2018 08:44