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Conflict and Democracy




Admissions requirements

Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies.


This course explores the relationship between conflict and democracy in post-conflict and so-called divided societies. The challenges of building democratic institutions in “failed” states and facilitating transitions from autocracy to democracy have been at the forefront of the foreign policy and development agendas of many states, international organisations and NGOs. Democratic governance is argued by many to be a good in itself, a human right, but also to be instrumental in sustaining a healthy polity. Advocates claim that democracy encourages economic growth, promotes accountable political leadership responsible to the needs of the population, and makes it less likely that disputes within and between states will escalate into armed conflict.

However, the difficulties such societies are facing in the process of democratization tell us how complex the process of designing democratic institutions is in societies characterised by significant ideological, ethnic and religious difference. One challenge is how best to support the preconditions of a stable democratic culture, such as a functioning economy and robust civil society. This course, however, focuses on a second challenge: that of designing and establishing political institutions able to foster peaceful cooperation among ethnic and religious groups.

We begin by exploring the link between democratic governance and conflict – and ask some critical questions such as does democratisation increase the risk of instability in plural societies? The course then moves on to look at different conceptions and institutional forms of democracy, asking what kind of democratic institutions are most suitable for divided societies. Does power sharing aid the consolidation of democracy? What effect do electoral rules have on the representation of different groups within the system? Is parliamentary government more stable than presidential government? Will decentralising power encourage minority groups to secede from the state? After exploring the theoretical issues, we will examine case studies of democratic transition drawn from the Middle East, Africa, Central, South, and South East Asia, asking how, and to what extent, the design of political institutions contributed to the success or failure of those transitions.

Course objectives

  • Identify challenges of democratisation and democratic governance in post-conflict and divided societies.

  • Critically assess major concepts and theories of democracy in divided societies, and their strengths and weaknesses.

  • Apply theoretical and conceptual tools in the analysis of empirical cases.

  • Demonstrate appropriate cognitive, communicative and transferable skills

  • Develop the capacity for independent learning, critique major texts and approaches and lead class discussions.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

The course is taught through two-hour seminars. Students will be expected to participate in both large and small group discussions, and present and defend their ideas within an academic setting. The instructor will facilitate and ensure the efficient running of the discussion. Each seminar has a required reading list that must be read in advance of each seminar. Students are advised to read some of the suggested readings.


Assessment 1: Seminar Participation (15%)

Assessment 2: Group Presentations (15%)
The presentation should focus on a particular ethnically and religiously divided state, analyzing its experience with democratisation after conflict and/or democracy (as appropriate) and drawing conclusions about the lessons that can be learned from the case.
The analysis should engage the theoretical debates explored in earlier sessions, and you’ll need to be discriminating about deciding which are most relevant to the case you’ve chosen. There should be a coherent line of argument connecting the different parts of the presentation with a clear set of conclusions that follow logically from the argument and evidence presented.
The literature listed for each seminar provides a starting point for research; the presentation will be stronger if you can go beyond this and bring in additional relevant material. Feel free to follow your interests and choose a different case, but please discuss it with me first and you’ll need to suggest (in good time) some relevant reading for the rest of the group.

Assessment 3: Short discussion paper 30%
The short discussion paper will form the basis of your contribution to the group presentation, and constitute 30% of the final grade. It should be 2,000 words long. The discussion paper must be submitted via Blackboard before the beginning of the seminar in which you are presenting.

Assessment 4: Individual Research Project 40%
The final component of assessment is an individual research essay, worth 40% of the final grade, addressing one of the following questions:

  • Why has the international community preferred democratization to partition in settling ethnic conflicts?

  • Is peacebuilding by international actors compatible with democratization?

  • Is there a proper sequence for state-building and holding elections in post-conflict societies?

  • What conditions make power-sharing constitutional settlements appropriate?

  • Are peace and democracy better served by a proportional representation system or the ‘Westminster’ system?

  • ‘Presidential government leads to democratic instability’. Discuss.

  • Evaluate the claim that decentralization will reduce conflict in divided societies.

The analysis in your essay should focus on the theoretical issues at stake in each question, using examples to illustrate and substantiate your general arguments. It should have a clear introduction and conclusion, a coherent and logical argument running through the essay, and offer reasons in support of your position. The analysis should draw on and critically engage with a good range of sources, and all ideas and information should be properly referenced.


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

Many of the seminars contain readings from this books, which you are strongly recommended to buy:

  • Norris, Pippa, Driving Democracy: Do Power Sharing Institutions Work? (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).

  • Roeder, Philip G. and Donald Rothchild (eds), Sustainable Peace: Power and Democracy after Civil Wars (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2005).


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr. Maja Vodopivec, Room 4.07, meeting by appointment or during office hours (will be announced in the syllabus for that block). Contact:


There will be no reading/preparation for the first class.