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Promoting democracy abroad: the US and the EU in third countries

Class at Faculty of Social Sciences |


Syllabus 2023/2024

The course will be taught in-person 1.     Introduction to the course – whither democratic governance in the world? (3.10.2023)

Bloc I - Theory 2.     Defining key terms and conceptualizing democracy promotion (10.10.2023)

Discussion: Types and approaches to democracy assistance

Compulsory reading 1: Jeffrey Kopstein, "The transatlantic divide over democracy promotion", The Washington Quarterly 29 (2), 2006: 85-98.

Recommended reading 1: Thomas Carothers, "Democracy assistance: political vs. developmental?" Journal of Democracy 20 (1), 2009: 5-19.

Recommended reading 2: Adrian Leftwich, "Democracy and development: Is there institutional incompatibility?" Democratization 12 (5), 2005: 686-703. 3.     What is being promoted? The contestability of liberalism (17.10.2023)

Discussion: Models of democracy

Compulsory reading: Sheri Berman, "The past and future of social democracy and the consequences for democracy promotion" in Christopher Hobson and Milja Kurki (eds.), The Conceptual Politics of Democracy Promotion (New York: Routledge, 2012), 68-84.

Recommended reading 1: Robert Dahl, Shapiro, Ian, and Cheibub, José Antonio (eds.) Democracy Sourcebook (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003), chapter 1: "Defining Democracy", 1-54.

Recommended reading 2: Milja Kurki, "Democracy and Conceptual Contestability: Reconsidering Conceptions of Democracy in Democracy Promotion", International Studies Review 12 (3), 2010: 363–364. 4.     What is being promoted? The contestability of democracy (24.10.2023)

Discussion: Strengthening authoritarians through democracy promotion?

Compulsory reading 1: Brian Klaas, "Introduction: Accessory to Authoritarianism", The Despot's Accomplice: How the West is Aiding and Abetting the Decline of Democracy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 1-21.

Recommended reading 1: Annika Elena Poppe, "Harmony and Resilience: US Democracy Promotion's Basic Premises", Foreign Policy Analysis 15 (4), 2019: 530-547.

Recommended reading 2: Jonathan Monten, "The Roots of the Bush Doctrine: Power, Nationalism, and Democracy Promotion in U.S. Strategy", International Security 29 (4): 2005, 112-156. 5.     Responsibility, morality and ethics – theories supporting democracy promotion (31.10.2023)

Discussion: Why do democracies promote democracy beyond their borders?

Compulsory reading: Alex Gourevitch, “Neo-Wilsonianism: The limits of American ethical foreign policy” in David Chandler and Volker Heins (eds.) Rethinking Ethical Foreign Policy Pitfalls, possibilities and paradoxes (London: Routledge, 2007).

Recommended reading 1: Bruce Russet, "The Fact of Democratic Peace" in Michael E. Brown, Sean M. Lynn-Jones, Steven E. Miller (eds.), Debating the Democratic Peace (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1999), 58-82.

Recommended reading 2: Adam Przeworski and Limongi Fernando in "Modernization: Theories and Facts", World Politics 49 (2), 1997: 155-183.

Recommended reading 3: John M. Owen, "How Liberalism Produces Democratic Peace" in Michael E. Brown, Sean M. Lynn-Jones, Steven E. Miller (eds.), Debating the Democratic Peace, (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1999), 116-154. 6.     Democratic transitions – processes and critical junctures (7.11.2023)

Discussion: Social consequences of political transformations

Compulsory reading: Miroslav Vanek and Pavel Mucke, Velvet Revolutions: An Oral History of Czech Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), chapters 1 and 5, "I Want to be Free! Civil and Political Rights" (15-42) and "From Mandatory Employment to Unemployment" (114-144).

Recommended reading 1: Edward D. Mansfield and Jack Snyder, "Democratization and the Danger of War" in Michael E. Brown, Sean M. Lynn-Jones, Steven E. Miller (eds.), Debating the Democratic Peace, (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1999), 301-334.

Recommended reading 2: Daniel Chirot, "Does Democracy Work in Deeply Divided Societies?" in Is Democracy Exportable?, edited by Zoltan Barany, and Robert G. Moser (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009). 7.     Non-Western perspectives on liberalism, democracy and their promotion (14.11.2023)

Discussion: Flaws in liberal democracy according to non-Western thinkers

Compulsory reading: Bai Tongdong, "A Confucian Improvement of Democracy", New Perspectives Quarterly 29 (1), 2012: 12-39.

Recommended reading: Bhikhu Parekh, "The Cultural Particularity of Liberal Democracy", Political Studies 40 (s1), 1992: 160-175.

Bloc II - Practice 8.     How is democracy promoted: democracy promotion instruments and institutions (21.11.2023)

Discussion: Undermining of democracy promotion efforts by third parties

Compulsory reading 1: Oz Hassan, "Undermining the transatlantic democracy agenda? The Arab Spring and Saudi Arabia's counteracting democracy strategy", Democratization 22 (3), 2015: 479-495.

Recommended reading 1: Melinda A. Haring, Reforming the Democracy Bureaucracy (Philadelphia PA: Foreign Policy Research Institute, 2013).

Recommended reading 2: Nelli Babayan, "The return of the empire? Russia's counteraction to transatlantic democracy promotion in its near abroad," Democratization 22 (3), 2015: 438-458.

Recommended reading 3: Tanja A. Börzel and Thomas Risse, "Venus Approaching Mars? The European Union's Approaches to Democracy Promotion in Comparative Perspective" in Amichai Magen, Michael McFaul and Thomas Risse, Promoting Democracy and the Rule of Law: American and European Strategies (New York: Palgrave-McMillan, 2009), 34-60. 9.   Civil society and non-governmental organizations as democracy promotors (28.11.2023)

Discussion: Women and democratic transitions

Compulsory reading: Georgina Waylen, “Gender and Transitions: What do we Know?”, Democratization 10 (1), 2003: 157-178.

Recommended reading 1: Shirin M. Rai, "Gender and democratization: Or what does democracy mean for women in the Third World?" Democratization 1 (1), 1994: 209-228.

Recommended reading 2: Sharon L. Wolchik, "Gender and the Politics of Transition in the Czech Republic and Slovakia" in Jane S. Jaquette and Sharon L. Wolchik (eds.), Women and Democracy: Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe (Baltimore MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998). 10.   Case studies I - promoting democracy in Iraq and Ukraine (5.12.2023)

Discussion: What went wrong with the attempt to build democracy in Iraq?

Compulsory reading: Rajiv Chandrasekaran, "Control Freak", Imperial Life in The Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone (New York NY: Vintage Books, 2007), 63-94.

Recommended reading 1: Jeff Bridoux and Malcolm Russell, "Liberal Democracy Promotion in Iraq: A Model for the Middle East and North Africa?" Foreign Policy Analysis 9 (3), 2013: 327-346.

Recommended reading 2: Iryna Solonenko, "External democracy promotion in Ukraine: the role of the European Union," Democratization 16 (4), 2009: 709-731. 11.   Case studies II – promoting democracy in Afghanistan and Czechoslovakia (12.12.2023)

Discussion: How is “nation-building” related to democracy promotion?

Compulsory reading: Jennifer Murtazashvili, “Gaming the state: consequences of contracting out state building in Afghanistan”, Central Asian Survey 34 (1), 2015: 78-92.

Recommended reading 1: Kelsey Landau, Norman Eisen and Mikuláš Pešta, “The Aftermath of Revolution: U.S. Support for Czech and Slovak Liberal Democracy, 1989–Present” in Norman Eisen (ed.) Democracy’s Defenders: U.S. Embassy Prague, the Fall of Communism in Czechoslovakia, and Its Aftermath (Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2020).

Recommended reading 2: Astri Suhrke, “Statebuilding in Afghanistan: a contradictory engagement”, Central Asian Survey 32 (3), 2013: 271-286. 12.   To promote or not to p


The promotion of democracy as such or the assistance provided to nascent democratic regimes around the world has become an integral part of the foreign policies of both the United States and the European Union since the end of the 1980s. The goal of advancing democratic governance abroad is linked to the premise that democracy - on the level of domestic politics - fosters above all good governance, rule of law and economic well-being of its citizens and - on the level of international relations - creates peaceful and mutually beneficial relations due to market interdependence and the accountability of democratic politicians to voters. The forms and strategies that are employed to foster and assist democracies around the world are various and range from rhetorical pledges to support democratic developments of Western policymakers to the most intrusive form - targeted intervention to force regime change.In formulating policies connected to democracy promotion and democracy assistance, many factors come into play. One of the fundamental factors is the ideological or normative underpinning of the policy, which is crucial for the moral justification of democracy promotion both within the international community and the domestic population of the donor state; material and strategic interests of the donor also come into play allocating finances and designing programs towards particular states and regions.

After the end of the Cold War and throughout the 1990s, the primary stage for democracy promotion was Eastern Europe and the post-Soviet space. The aim of the US was to help the consolidation of "market democracies" - a term that both encompasses the ideological and material interests of Washington in the region; for the EU the goal was the potential accession of these states to the Union, thus representing a strategic and also material interest. The 2000s saw the democracy promotion stage shift to countries of North Africa and the Middle East as the former communist countries of Eastern Europe became fairly consolidated democracies and became part of the European Union. More recently the EU aims to "streamline" democracy and human rights promotion into all of its external activities and the US, in reaction to the Arab Spring and the crisis in Ukraine, has been more vocal in support of democratic developments around the world, despite President Barack Obama's initial toning down of rhetoric with respect to democracy promotion.

Understanding the dynamics of democracy promotion, the instruments used to further this goal, the stakeholders involved and the interests and norms that underlie the policies is thus crucial for understanding contemporary foreign policy of the Unites States and the European Union.