Spring 2025

European Democracy: Dos and Don'ts for America and the World

Listed in: Political Science, as POSC-436


Ruxandra Paul (Section 01)


What is unique about European democracy? In what ways has Europe shaped the meaning of democratic politics, and our expectations about the relationship between state, society, and the market in a democratic polity? Is there anything the United States can learn from European experiences with democratic politics? This seminar examines the dimensions of European democracy, at the national and at the supranational (European Union) level. It tracks the evolution of democracy from its beginnings until the present. We will discuss visions and varieties of democracy, past and present, the different timelines for democratic development, transitions to democracy in Central and Eastern Europe following the end of the Cold War, and the impact of European integration. We will compare and contrast consolidated and fledgling democracies on the continent, and discuss similarities and differences between European and American understandings of democracy. We will analyze the relationship between majority rule and minority rights, the frictions between representation and direct participation, the relationship between democracy and nationalism, the tensions between European integration and democratization, the uneasy coexistence of democracy and capitalism, as well as the decisions facing those writing constitutions for countries transitioning to democracy after years of authoritarian rule. We will analyze current events and challenges testing the resilience of European democracies, old and new.

Recommended Prior Coursework: At least one other Political Science course. 

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Assistant Professor Paul.

How to handle overenrollment: Priority to Political Science majors. Seniors, juniors, 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: Emphasis on written work, readings, independent research, oral presentations, and collaboration.

Course Materials


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2023, Spring 2025