The primary objective of the course is to provide an introduction to the origins, dynamics, and consequences of historical and contemporary social movements. Individuals in every society are enmeshed in powerful political, social and economic systems that are resistant to change. Occasionally, however, people do band together and challenge these systems: they picket, they march, they strike, they sit-in, they mobilize social media, they form protest organizations and demand change. Such occasions are important moments because they represent the rare opportunity for the normally powerless to challenge the normally powerful. This course offers an exploration of such moments.
The course also has a second, more general objective. Studying social movements allows us to reflect on larger questions about the nature of political power, conflict, and legitimacy, as well as the relationship between human agency, social structure, and historical change. The most general goal of the course is to provide an impetus for students to develop ideas of their own on these issues.
Social Movements Syllabus (Spring 2009)