Protest before the October 2015 referendum. "Congo is not the property of the Nguesso's."

Politics in Autocracies

Despite the global expansion of democracy since the 1990s, autocracy remains the most common form of political organization. This undergraduate seminar surveys major topics in the political economy of autocracy. It focuses, in particular, on a central question: How do autocratic governments retain power while denying basic political rights to a broad segment of the population? In so doing, the course probes the social and economic origins of autocracy, its implications for economic and international policy, the effects of natural resources thereon, the prevalence of elections and legislatures, and other topics. The course draws from a range of disciplines: primarily political science, economics, and history, but others too.

DSN inaugurating a Chinese-financed infrastructure project

Political Economy of Africa

Living standards around the world have increased, in many cases exponentially, throughout the previous century. Yet income levels in many parts of Sub-Saharan Africa have remained roughly stagnant, and now the continent accounts for roughly 70% of the world’s poor. This course asks three questions: Why did this economic divergence occur? When did it begin? Will it persist for the foreseeable future? The course draws on a range of social science disciplines – anthropology, economics, history, political science, and sociology – to offer tentative answers.

Digital surveillance in China

Managing Global Problems

The modern world is unprecedented in human history. Living standards have never been higher. Rates of violence have never been lower. More people live under democratic governments than ever before. The first part of this course documents these trends and, drawing from disciplines across the social science, attempts to explain them. The second part of the course surveys the challenges to this historical moment. We consider the implications of climate change, the resurgence of autocracy, the dynamics of civil resistance, the causes and consequences of income inequality in Western democracies, and the future of the post-World War II international order, among other topics.