Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Democratic Erosion

September 13, 2018

Created following Donald Trump’s election in 2016 and the rise of nationalism around the globe, a new cross-university collaborative course aims to treat the threat of democratic erosion as an empirical question, rather than merely a political one.

Democratic Erosion is a cross-university collaborative course, led by Rob Blair, Assistant Professor of Political Science and International and Public Affairs at Brown University, that aims to help students critically and systematically evaluate the risks to democracy both here and abroad through the lens of theory, history, and social science. During the 2017-18 academic year, faculty at over a dozen universities taught elements from the same syllabus at the same time. Students at all participating universities collaborated on a number of assignments, and are expected to engage not only with their own classmates, but with students at other universities as well.

Four students from the Democratic Erosion consortium, including one from Brown, were selected to expand blog posts they wrote for the course into essays for the Social Science Research Council, published alongside pieces by leading scholars in political science.

To mark the conclusion of the first year of the course, the Watson Institute hosted a full-day conference on August 29, 2018. Faculty and student participants from 12 of the universities met to discuss democratic decline and resilience in theory and practice, as well as generate new opportunities for collaborative research. Later in the week, Rob and other faculty from around the country presented on the course at APSA in Boston.


To learn more about the course, click hereHear Blair and two student participants discuss the course and conference on the Watson’s Trending Globally podcast.