This course develops research questions about democracy, dictatorship, and everything in-between. It uses the post-1945 experiences of Northeast and Southeast Asia’s varied political systems to address important theoretical debates in political science and developmental studies. It seeks to understand why, over the past decades, East Asia has seen the rise, demise and return of authoritarian modes of governance, in parallel with the emergence of multifaceted processes of political liberalisation. It examines the various challenges of democratic transition and consolidation in the region, but also democratic regression and illiberal politics, the developmental state and modernization theory, military intervention in politics, political contention, party systems, elites and dynasticism, international democracy promotion and their impact on authoritarian rule and democratic change. How can we make sense of East Asia’s highly diverse political institutions, regime formation and durability, historical legacies and cultural dynamics, and what can we learn from the region? The course will be structured thematically so that students will be able to study East Asia comparatively while making connections with the broader fields of comparative politics.
The course seeks to enable students to analyse the causes and consequences of the resilience and challenges of non-liberal political regimes in East Asia while relating historical developments and contemporary dynamics in the region to social science theories about comparative democratization, regime change and authoritarian rule. By exposing students to a variety of empirical studies on Northeast and Southeast Asia’s political contexts and institutional systems, as well as cutting-edge theoretical debates on key topics in the region, the course will help them construe why certain countries are democratic, and others are not. By the end of the course, students will be ready to develop ideas and formulate their own research questions about democracy, authoritarianism, and everything in-between in the region – and beyond.