Spring 2025 | Asia, Africa, and Europe Exploration

POLS 347 Comparative Authoritarianism

Overview of Course

How do dictators stay in power and why do their regimes ever collapse? The answers to these questions are profoundly important, impacting billions of people globally. As of 2023, nearly 60% of the world’s countries were considered partly free or not free and nearly 40% of the world’s population (more than 3 billion people) currently lives under fully non-democratic rule. Historically, more countries than not have been ruled by dictatorships. Therefore, understanding the different types of autocratic regimes, the logics according to which they operate, and the dynamics explaining their collapse is integral to any study of comparative politics and political science more broadly. In this class, we will not only answer these questions (and others) but will also see our class themes manifest vividly in port visits on our itinerary. This course examines the characteristics and dynamics of different types of dictatorial rule, setting these regimes in explicit contrast to democracies and totalitarian regimes as well as each other. We will leverage modern and historical examples to contextualize our discussions throughout our port stops that temporally progress roughly from more closed regimes to those that are more politically open. The countries we visit throughout our voyage will animate our broader empirical and theoretical investigation of autocracy. The course will also consider the conceptualization and measurement of regime types across the spectrum from democracy to totalitarianism. The syllabus includes a wide range of case studies that span our voyage and the globe.