GOV 337M • Law and Democracy in Latin America
12:30 PM-2:00 PM
Course number may be repeated for credit when the topics vary. This course explores many of the challenges to the rule of law across Latin America, and their connection to democracy. We will begin by examining the relationship between law and democracy, then look at a series of issues that illustrate the strength or weakness of the rule of law in the region. Rather than focusing on one country at a time or a few countries in depth, we will use events and systems in various countries as illustrations of important themes. We will then look at the possible consequences of these challenges for democracy in the region, and possible solutions. The course materials will at times cover difficult and controversial topics such as violence, human rights violations, and corruption. The readings are a collection of recent research on these issues and require the students to engage critically with the readings. We will test authors' claims against the evidence they present, challenge the logic of their arguments, and question their conclusions. The readings will often be challenging, including both qualitative and quantitative analyses, and containing both historical and more philosophical discussions of law and democracy in the region. Some of the readings are also quite long. Students are expected to come to class prepared and participate in the discussions. I will occasionally test students' preparation with brief, unannounced written questions. By the end of the semester you will have acquired some basic information about Latin American legal systems, and some basic concepts about the different ways courts work in that part of the world. More importantly, however, you will have a greater understanding of what a robust democracy should look like, and where different countries fall short. You should be able to engage in a discussion about the role courts and laws do play, should play and can play in the (democratic) political systems of Latin America, and its potential for improvement.