This course is an introduction to judicial politics in Europe. We will examine the conceptual, theoretical, and empirical foundations of the study of the rule of law and the role of courts in European politics. The conceptual discussion will focus on the elements of the rule of law doctrine, the multiple definitions of judicial independence, and the judicialization of politics. We will also examine the dominant theories of the emergence and sustainability of independent courts and the trend towards judicial empowerment. The empirical examples will be very diverse: contemporary and historical European experiences, Western and Eastern European states, democratic, authoritarian, and post-authoritarian regime settings, and constitutional and ordinary judiciaries. The aim of the course is for students to come away with both a strong theoretical understanding of how civil law systems function, as well as some concrete factual knowledge of institutional configurations and salient issues in a broad range of European countries.
Nearly 30 years after the collapse of communism, the Central European countries, Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria, and Romania have completed their “return to Europe” by joining the European Union and NATO. The other Balkan countries (Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, and Kosovo) are heading along the same trajectory, albeit at different paces. In this course, we will explore the unprecedented “triple transition” in national identities, political institutions, and economic systems that resulted from the breakdown of the Communist regimes in the Soviet Bloc. Some of the questions which this course will address include: Why did Communism collapse? What was the most effective way to transition from a command to a market economy? Why did inter-ethnic strife accompany the breakdown of Yugoslavia, but not Czechoslovakia? Have the transition and consolidation of democratic regimes in the region been completed? Did the EU play a decisive role in the consolidation of democracy in East Central Europe and the Balkans? Are Central European democracies backsliding into authoritarianism? The course will combine due attention to the milestones of postcommunist trajectories in Eastern Europe and the Balkans and a survey of theoretical attempts to explain various facets of the “triple transition.”
This course has three main goals: 1) to introduce students to mixed methods research approaches and their philosophical foundation; 2) to help students learn how to execute these methods through analysis of examples from the European politics literature; 3) to provide an opportunity for students to generate their own mixed methods research design, which could become the basis of their thesis work.
A student video-presentation about Polish reforms (November 30, 2017).