SA4G8      Half Unit
Social Movements, Activism, and Social Policy

This information is for the 2018/19 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Armine Ishkanian OLD.2.54 and Dr Timothy Hildebrandt


This course is available on the MSc in Criminal Justice Policy, MSc in International Social and Public Policy, MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Development), MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Migration), MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Non-Governmental Organisations) and MSc in Social Policy (Research). This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

The course is capped at a maximum of 45 places. 

Course content

The course begins by examining theories of social movements, collective action,  and contentious politics.  It then moves on to examine how social movements engage with the policy process and the ways in which social movement activism informs social policy formulation and implementation.  It examines the nature, past and present roles of social movements and their potential capacity in shaping social policy in developed  and developing countries, and in democratic, hybrid, or authoritarian regimes.  The course covers theoretical arguments and examines empirical examples and case studies.

The course examines the following topics:    the role and impact of social movement activism in identifying and meeting needs; the role of grassroots mobilizations and solidarity; how movements are affected by  regulatory frameworks;  how and when movements achieve their objectives; movements relations with other actors (including, NGOs, trade unions, political parties, etc.); populism. 

  It considers the development, transformation, autonomy, interdependence, and probity of social movements.  The course draws on examples of social movements in different periods, countries, and areas of activity to examine and analyse how change happens and the obstacles to change.  


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the LT. 1 hour and 30 minutes of seminars in the ST.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to participate actively in seminars and to complete one piece of written formative coursework

Indicative reading

Castells, M. (2012). Networks of Outrage and Hope:  Social Movements in the Internet Age.

Della Porta, D. (2015). Social Movements in Times of Austerity.

Fox Piven, F., & Cloward, R. (1978). Poor People’s Movements: why they succeed, how they fail.

Glasius, M., & Ishkanian, A. (2015). Surreptitious Symbiosis: Engagement between activists and NGOs. Voluntas.

Graeber, D. (2002). The new anarchists. New Left Review, 13, 61-73.

Hildebrandt, T (2013) Social organizations and the authoritarian state in China

Jasper, J. M. (2010). Social Movement Theory Today: Toward a Theory of Action?

Jenkins, J. C. (1983). Resource mobilization theory and the study of social movements.

Pleyers, G. (2011). Alter-Globalization: Becoming Actors in the Global Age.

Polletta, F. (2002). Freedom is an endless meeting: Democracy in American social movements.

Rochon, T. R., & Mazmanian, D. (1993). Social Movements and the Policy Process.Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science

Seckinelgin, H. (2017) The politics of global AIDS: institutionalization of solidarity, exclusion of context

Tarrow, S. (2011). Power in Movement.

Weldon, L. S. (2011). When protest makes policy: how social movements represent disadvantaged groups.


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours) in the summer exam period.

Student performance results

(2014/15 - 2016/17 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 13.3
Merit 74.4
Pass 12.2
Fail 0

Key facts

Department: Social Policy

Total students 2017/18: 22

Average class size 2017/18: 11

Controlled access 2017/18: Yes

Lecture capture used 2017/18: Yes (LT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication

Course survey results

(2014/15 - 2016/17 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 86%



Reading list (Q2.1)


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