Transition of Power: Concepts, Approaches and Empirical Findings

General Information
Willy Brandt Center, Strażnicza 1
Willy Brandt Center
Number of Hours: 
Tuesday 16:00 - 17:30
Preliminary requirements: 

The students should have basic knowledge of political science and a good grasp of key concepts from social sciences. In particular, good understanding of statehood, democracy and history of political ideas is essential. A good command of written and spoken English is required.

Course Description: 

0. Introduction

1. Concepts of power and power transition

2. Revolutions (Great revoolutions vs. revolts vs. coups)

3. Democratizations (Eastern Europe vs. Latin America)

4.Transition mechanisms in democracies: elections, referenda, randomization

5. Evolutions (the European Union)

Aims of the course: 

Students discuss key concepts of power and transition of power including those by Max Weber, Talcott Parsons and Kenneth Waltz.

Students  explain major scholalrly controversies surrounding the power transition in the area of of revolution, randomization in politics and evolution of polities.

Students present different empirical findings in this field of power transition, both in contemporary democracies and authocracies.

Students relate classical concepts, e.g. Aristotle’s randomization argument to modern politics. They can differentiate between problems of power, legitimacy and security.


Students are able to correctly use the main concepts from the political theory and theory of international relations and apply them to analyze different cases of power transition.

Students have the skills to analyze and describe different cases of transition of power in Eastern Europe, Latin America, the MENA region and the European Union. Students are capable of differentiating between cases of power transition in democracies, autocracies and supranational polities.

Students posses the ability to reflect both theoretically and empirically both short- and long-term processes of power transition such as revolutions and evolutionary changes. Against this backdrop, they are able to analyze the current events of power transition such as the ‘Arabellion”.

Students have the skills to compare different cases of power transition regarding political, religious and economic factors. They can explore new challenges linked with transition of power.


Students have the competencies to formulate his/her own opinions about various cases of power transition, both in democracies, autocracies and supranational polities such as the European Union. Students have the skills to discuss the topic at hand and verify his/her opinion under the influence of the arguments of the others.

Students are able to work both individually and in a team. The can devise analytical frameworks, oral presentations, term papers and protocols.

Students are able to co conduct a moderation of a seminar, alone and in collaboration with other students. They can structure a seminar session and formulate relevant questions for the further discussion.  

Evaluation & Completion: 

Active participation in the discussions, writing a protocol, moderation of at least one session, writing of a term paper.

Basic Literature: 

1. Charles Tilly, “Does Modernization breed Revolution?”, Comparative Politics 5, no. 3 (1973), pp. 425-447.

2. Tacott Parsons, “On the Concept of Political Power”, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 107, 3 (1963), pp. 232-262.

3. Michael McFaul, “The Fourth Wave of Democracy and Dictatorship: Noncooperative Transitions in the Potscommunist World”, World Politics 54, 2 (2002), pp. 212-244

4. Andreas Schedler, “Elections without Democracy: The menu of Manipulation”, Journal of Democracy 13, 2 (2002), pp. 36-50.

5. Robert A. Dahl, “Myth of the Presidential Mandate”, Political Science Quarterly 105, 3 (1990), pp. 355-372

Introductory Reading: 

1. John Agnew, “Mapping Political Power Beyond State Boundaries: Territory, Identity, and Movement in World Politics, “Millennium – Journal of International Studies 28, 3 (1999), pp. 499-521.

2. Yannis Papadopoulos, “Analysis of Functions and Dysfunctions of Direct Democracy: Top-Down and Bottom-Up Perspectives”, Politics and Society 23, 4 (1995), pp. 421-448.

3. Bruno S. Frey, “Direct Democracy: Politico-Economic Lessons from Swiss Experience”, American Economic Review 84, 2 (1994), pp. 338-342.

4. Stephan Haggard and Robert R. Kaufman, “The Political Economy of Democratic Transitions”, Comparative Politics 29, 3 (1997), pp. 263-283.

5. Robert H. Dix, “The Varieties of Revolution”, Comparative Politics 15, 3 (1983), pp. 261-294.

6. Barry Buzan, “Peace, Power, and Security”, Journal of Peace Research 21, 2 (1984), pp. 109-125.