Social and Political Movements - Interests, Identities, and Action

Term: Spring 2012

Subject Code: GPOL

Course Number: 5220

Social and political movements have played such a big role over the last century that place names have often been filled with their meanings.  We remember the Winter Palace & the Bolsheviks; Berlin & the Nazis; Birmingham, Montgomery & the civil rights movement; Paris May 1968 and radical student movements; Teheran and Islamic revolution; Gdansk, Berlin & the end of Communism; Johannesburg & the end of apartheid; and Oklahoma City & the ultraright.  In 2012 new names signify movements whose results are uncertain: Tahir Square, Tea Party, OWS, and more.   

Movements raise issues and redefine older ones.  They generate new actors and help found new states.   From labor to citizenship to religion to family, social and political movements have been influential.  Though it is hard to know  what movements will arise next, we can presume that there are more movements to come.  Even in 2008 few people expected the current movements about authoritarian regimes (Egypt), economic inequality (including OWS), or statism (Tea Party).  

            We will focus on major political and social movements in the 20th and 21st centuries, with special interest in recent and ongoing movements.  We look at movements that have made a difference.  (This means an acceptable degree of bias - sometimes movements did not appear or gain enough strength to shape outcomes.)  The aim is to generate insights and hypotheses – the ‘somewhere’ one starts is with actual movements, including these efforts: 

-          Labor movements in market societies.

-          Fascist movements in interwar Europe and their successors.

-          The civil rights movement in the United States and its successors.

-          Movements against authoritarian regimes, such as in Poland and in South Africa.

-          Anticolonial and nationalist movements.

-          Feminist movements.

-          The radical student movements of Western Europe and North America in the 1960s and later.

-          Religious movements.   

These movements engaged many people as activists and supporters.  They were forceful and sustained.  They tried to change values and institutions.  We will consider the main theoretical perspectives and we will try to get beyond what is on offer. 

This course is open to M.A. and Ph.D. students in Politics and other NSSR Departments.  The primary course work is a paper focused on a significant movement, including movements in progress.


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