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icono de curso

Globalization, Social Movements and Development


Credits: 4 ECTS

First semester

Pathway core courses




Social movements have long been at the forefront of transformative change. The civil rights struggles in the United States and indigenous mobilization in Bolivia challenged the established racial order and paved the way for the rise of an African American (Barack Obama) and an indigenous person (Evo Morales) to the highest political office in the two countries. Similarly, the undoing of the patriarchal family order and the dramatic transformation of gender relations over the last 50 years are almost impossible to imagine without feminism and LGBT movements. Similarly, the broad acceptance of sustainability as a cultural value and the “greening” of politics is closely entwined with the emergence of the environmental movement.

Yet, social movements are not a “magic bullet” for the advancement of human wellbeing and social justice. Ethnoracial inequalities remain deeply entrenched in the Americas, with disproportionate levels of poverty found among African Americans and indigenous peoples; women across the world continue to earn significantly less and face greater job insecurity than their male counterparts; and climate change and global warming continue to loom large. In fact, social movements have also been at the center of bringing about immense human suffering and decline in welfare, as examples ranging from the Ku Klux Klan to al-Queda powerfully illustrate.

This course explores the intersection between globalization, collective mobilization, and development. It does so by posing several core questions that will guide the readings and class discussions. When do social movements achieve what they want? What kinds of tactics are particularly “successful,” and what kinds of transformative change are movements particularly “good” at? And what about the unintended consequences of social movements? In pursuing these questions the course provides students with an introduction to the field of social movement studies, with a particular emphasis on recent attempts to theorize social movement outcomes. Yet, the course also departs from and moves beyond conventional courses on social movements. It does so in at least three major ways.

  • First, the course puts the spotlight on social movements in the Global South. This focus allows to critically interrogate the extent established social movement theory—which has primarily been developed against the backdrop of empirics from United States and Western Europe—needs to be reformulated in light of fresh evidence from the developingworld.
  • Second, the course situates the study of social movements in the broader field of development studies. How variations in human development can be explained (and how justice and greater human well-being can be achieved) are heatedly debated, and scholars point to a variety of factors, most importantly political regimes, the nature of state institutions and party systems, and global governance structures. An analytical emphasis on collective mobilization allows to complement this focus by injecting politics, and with that, a focus on power relations, into the study of international development.
  • Third, the course draws on recent efforts to understand the connection between collective action and globalization. It explores how the communications revolution has implicated the opportunities, scales, and tactics of social movements. It also examines the interaction between collective mobilization, the transformation of growth models (e.g., the growing importance of finance and extractive industries), and the rise of new global norms and governance structures.


  • Class participation 15%
  • In-class research project presentation 20%
  • Short blog/media piece 20%
  • Final paper 45%.

Competences, learning outcomes and teaching activities (PDF)