UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


SESS0074 Undermining Democracy: Political Manipulation in Comparative Perspective

UCL Credit Value: 15

ECTS Value: 7.5

Term 1

Module Coordinator: Prof. Andrew Wilson
Weekly Contact Hours: 2.0
Prerequisites: None

Summative Assessment

3000 Word Essay - 100% Coursework

Formative Assessment


Module Outline

Russia’s role in the Donald Trump campaign brought ‘fake news’ to the world’s attention. In fact, there are a whole range of techniques for manipulating and undermining democracy. This course looks at how ‘political technology’ was born in and spread out from the post-Communist world and now interacts with other techniques more common in the West. The course will include many case studies of the arts of political manipulation in key countries, and concludes with an analysis of the practical policy implications.

1. Political and intellectual background

•    Deteriorating democracy in the West
•    Hybrid authoritarianism in the East
•    Capitalism and/or Democracy

•    Post-modernism - Baudrillard, Foucault, Barthes
•    Media theory – McLuhan, Guy Debord, Kristeva, Chomsky,
•    Diversion, State of Exception, Theory of the Partisan – Carl Schmitt

2. Russia: Political Technology, kompromat

3. The West: Spin, Lobbying and Unlobbying Tactics

4. The Zone of Democratic Deterioration

5. China: Internet Walls and Social Credit Schemes

6. Disruptive technology

•    New Media, New Audiences
•    Social Media, Fake News
•    Hybrid War, Information War

7. Astroturfing: Proxies and their Sponsors

8. The New Fraud: Election Fixing in the Information Age

9. The Rise of Technology in Political Technology

•    Computerised fraud, Bots, big data, AI

Please note: This outline is accurate at the time of publication. Minor amendments may be made prior to the start of the academic year.