Postgraduate course

Breaking BAD: Understanding Backlash Against Democracy

  • ECTS credits10
  • Teaching semesterSpring
  • Course codeSAMPOL338
  • Number of semesters1
  • LanguageEnglish
  • Resources

Level of Study


Teaching semester


Objectives and Content

Across the globe, democracy is challenged in ways that challenge the scholarly literature on democratic development. Breaking Bad: Understanding Backlash Against Democracy is a graduate research seminar focusing on theoretical and empirical analyses of the state of democracy in the world today, with a particular emphasis on new democracies in the global south. The graduate course project aims to develop a rigorous empirical basis for understanding the scope, causes, responses to and effects of the backlash against democracy. The course is structured around four distinctive democratic rights clusters, contestation rights, associational rights, gender rights and rule of law (judicial independence). To each rights dimension, we will present and discuss central theoretical arguments and empirical applications. The output from each student will be a 5000-word research paper that addresses the concept of democratic backsliding, along one or more of the four dimensions of rights. Each student will be required to prepare and present based on the (syllabus) for the course.

Learning Outcomes

A student who has completed the course should have the following learning outcomes:


  • empirical and theoretical basis for understanding the scope, causes, responses to and effects of the backlash against democracy
  • define key concepts, like democracy, democratic backsliding, associational rights, contestation rights, gender rights and judicial independence
  • identify and explain theories that link democratic backsliding, authoritarian retrenchment
  • analyze, compare, and critically evaluate empirical data and datasets on democratic developments across the world


  • demonstrate ability to present and shape a discussion on key debates within liberal and non-liberal perspectives on democracy
  • complete an academic paper which develops skills related to surveying the secondary and primary literatures, applies and assesses various empirical data sources, analytical writing, logical reasoning and critical argumentation.
  • link theories of democratic backlash and authoritarianism to empirical cases and identify different trajectories of change/no change

General competence

  • Display motivation and ability to work independently in an academic or a professional setting.
  • Display improved oral academic communication skills, after participating in class discussions and the class panel debates.

Required Previous Knowledge

Students must have completed a bachelor's degree in political science or an equivalent (subject to approval by the administration of the Department of Comparative Politics).

Recommended Previous Knowledge


Access to the Course

The course is oriented towards students who have been accepted into the department's master's program but is open to visiting students upon approval of student request.

Teaching and learning methods

12 literature seminars and workshop/writing seminars

Compulsory Assignments and Attendance

  • Attendance at literature seminars (75%)
  • Attendance at the two research project workshops
  • Presentation of a text from syllabus and lead discussion in class

Forms of Assessment

The final grade is based upon final essay (5000-word research paper)

Grading Scale

The grading scale used is A to F. Grade A is the highest passing grade in the grading scale, grade F is a fail.

Assessment Semester


Course Evaluation

Course is to be evaluated regularly.

Course Coordinator

Lise Rakner


Department of Comparative Politics


Contact Information