Spring 2023

Failed States, Fragility. and Democratization

Listed in: Political Science, as POSC-435


Scott A. Smitson (Section 01)


This course will examine the intersection of democratic performance and government institutional resiliency in fragile, weak, and failed nation-states, and international actor engagement in "fixing" failed states. This course tackles the question of how to design policies and programs to rebuild failed and weak states into functioning, if not vibrant, democracies. From the collapse of the Afghan national government in 2021, the "compound security" challenge of Venezuela, persistent instability in portions of the Middle East and Africa and Latin America, and the use of weak and failing states as "contested locations" for great power influence, the study of failed states and the policy approaches designed to address them are as timely as they are relevant. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to stress the stability and governing capacity of nation-states, all set against the backdrop of weakening support for democratic norms and institutions globally. We will examine the causes of nation-state failure, the trajectories or pathways to and from failure, and the ingredients purported to contribute to the consolidation of democracy, as well as societal resilience. In addition, we will critically assess the policies and programs of international actors intent upon aiding the transition to democracy, such as the United States.

Requisite: At least one Political Science course. Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Chamberlain Fellow Smitson

How to handle overenrollment: Priority to Political Science majors, seniors, juniors, then sophomores.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Critical thinking; application of theoretical concepts to real world application; synthesizing classic and modern readings on failed states, development, and intervention; utilizing analytical reasoning and oral and written communication skills for individual and group work; applying basic defense, diplomacy, and development principles drawn from theorists and the lessons drawn from historical case studies. Major graded assignments will include exams, a research paper, and capstone practical exercise.

POSC 435 - LEC

Section 01
Th 2:30 PM - 5:15 PM SCCE A019


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2023