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IR210: International Politics: Building Democracies from Conflict


Course Content

How can we design, build and sustain 'democracies' in places that have been engaged in sustained conflict?  We will explore societies torn apart by political violence and ethnic conflict.  The main purpose is to diagnose the central problems, and examine what political responses are most appropriate.

The first part of the course mostly looks at the problems. We begin with an examination of Iraq (Case Study 1: Iraq) as an example of armed intervention and regime change (themes include the politics of intervention, mass violence, constitution building and power-sharing, and the rise (and fall?) of Islamic State.  More generally we will examine the micro foundations of nationalism, grievances and conflict. Since the end of the cold war, almost all wars are ‘civil wars’ so we will consider what causes civil wars, what sustains them, why some last much longer than others, and how do they end?  We will exam civil wars both in a comparative manner and also by means of Case Study 2: Multiple Civil Wars in Sudan and South Sudan.  There will also be a focus on the strategies of terrorism and suicide terrorism.

The second part of the course shifts the focus of attention to ‘solutions’ and policy responses to divided societies and failing states.   Informed responses might include: intervention, mediation and peace agreements; power-sharing and constitutional design (including Case Study 3; Northern Ireland); territorial management of conflict; and transitional justice (including Case Study 4: South Africa and East Timor).

We look at which are the most appropriate electoral systems for divided places (and which should be avoided).  The timing of ‘first elections’ after civil wars might also be important because they are risky: should they be held early to legitimize the peace, or delayed until state institutions have been rebuilt?  We also examine the growth in electoral and competitive authoritarianism: more and more regimes hold semi-competitive elections that are not truly democratic. Why do they do this?  This leads into Case Study 5: Elections in Kenya.

We end the course by analyzing the ‘Arab Springs’ and the resilience of authoritarianism in the Middle East (including Case Study 6: compare Egypt and Tunisia).

View a week-by-week lecture schedule for this course.

World-class LSE teaching 

With a vibrant research culture, the LSE Department of International Relations is one of the oldest and largest in the world, and remains a leading world centre for the development of the subject. Its reputation for international excellence was recognised in the most recent National Research Assessment Exercise when the International Relations and Government Departments, received one of the highest rankings.               

On this three week intensive programme, you will engage with and learn from full-time lecturers from the LSE



There is no set text for this course. Course materials will be distributed in the first lecture.

*A more detailed reading list will be supplied prior to the start of the programme

**Course content, faculty and dates may be subject to change without prior notice



Session: Two

Dates: 10 - 28 July 2017

Lecturer: Dr Paul Mitchell

Level: 200 level

Fees: Click here for information

Prerequisites: At least one introductory course in either social science (e.g. political science, international relations, sociology, economics), history or law

Lectures: 36 hours 

Classes: 18 hours

Assessment*: One essay and one written examination

Typical credit**: 3-4 credits (US)
7.5 ECTS points (EU) 

How to apply?

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*assessment is optional – see FAQs

**You will need to check with your home institution. Read more about credit transfer here.