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Elective: Authoritarian Politics: the Politics of Conflict, Violence, and Genocide


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies who have succesfully completed the second year elective course.

The number of participants is limited to 25.


Throughout human history, authoritarian regimes have formed the dominant system of government. While the twentieth century saw the rise of democracy, it also witnessed the development of new forms of authoritarianism. What’s more, only a few dictators, such as Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Idi Amin, and Pol Pot have presided over a large part of the unprecedented human tragedy of the twentieth century. Even today, authoritarian regimes commonly dictate the news: think of Putin’s intervention in the Ukraine; the Saudi-Egyptian intervention in Yemen; or China’s emergence as a great power.
This course builds on recent research, which has demonstrated a strong link between authoritarian politics and mass political violence, such as war, civil, war and genocide. Consequently, this course will examine the workings of authoritarian politics with a focus on authoritarian regime type, controlling populations, elite pillars of support, elite competition. It will then relate the particulars of authoritarian politics with various types of mass political violence.
In-class instruction will aim not to regurgitate the content of readings, but expand upon them by bringing in current research and data. Students are taught to critically evaluate and engage theoretical arguments of authoritarian politics, conflict and violence. Students will further examine these common themes at the hand of case research on authoritarian regimes (e.g. Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Nasser, Videla, and Saddam) of their choice.

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, students should be able to:
1) Recognize and classify authoritarian regimes; 2) Reflect on the differences and commonalities of authoritarian regime types; 3) Reflect on the complex nature of the authoritarian environment, its politics, and the role of state and non-state actors therein; 4) Explain the violent nature of authoritarian regimes; 5) Explain the particular relationship between authoritarian politics and mass political violence, such as war, civil war and genocide; 6) Formulate positions on the basis of a critical evaluation of theoretical arguments.; and 7) Independently conduct research on authoritarianism and violence using secondary sources.


The timetable is available on the BA International Studies website.

Mode of instruction

Lecture, seminar style discussion and supervised research.

Course Load

  • 24 Hours of classes

  • 96 hours of close reading (8 hours per week over 12 weeks)

  • 60 hours for short assignments

  • 10 hours for research proposal.

  • 60 hours for final essay.

  • 30 hours for regulative activities; meeting with fellow students and teacher; and hours surrounding classes.

Total course load for this 10 EC course is 10 × 28 hours = 280 hours.

Assessment method

  • Prepare the pre-assigned readings prior to each class, and participate fully in the discussions. You should bring the readings to class;

  • Submit short assignments related to the readings and an authoritarian regime of your choice;

  • Submit a proposal for a final paper, which contains: research question or hypothesis; a outline, and a preliminary bibliography;

  • Submit a final paper on a well-defined aspect of the course.

Note: The maximum possible grade to be obtained for re-submission of the final essay is a 6.0


Blackboard will be used. For tutorial groups: please enroll in blackboard after your enrolment in uSis
Students are requested to register on Blackboard for this course.

Reading list

To be announced


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.