SP419      Half Unit
Social Movements, Activism, and Social Policy

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Ms Vanessa Hughes OLD 2.38 and Dr Muzafferettin Seckinelgin OLD 2.27


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

All Social Policy Courses are ‘Controlled Access’. Please see the link below for further details on the allocation process.


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. 

The coure considers the development, transformation, autonomy, interdependence, and probity of social movements. It 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.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Social Policy

Total students 2019/20: 32

Average class size 2019/20: 15

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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