SP419      Half Unit
Social Movements, Activism, and Social Policy

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

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 (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.

The course also offers an accompanying film programme with four film screenings and discussions in LT. The remaining films are for students to watch in their own time.


Courses in Social Policy will follow the Teaching Model which has been adopted by the Department of Social Policy during the period of the pandemic. This is outlined HERE: https://www.lse.ac.uk/social-policy/Current-Students/teaching-in-the-department-of-social-policy

This course will be taught through a combination of either a recorded lecture plus a follow-up Q and A session or a ‘live’ on-line lecture; and classes/seminars of 1-1.5 hours (with size and length of classes/seminars depending on social distancing requirements).

Further information will be provided by the Course Convenor in the first lecture of the course.

The course will be delivered in Lent term.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to participate actively in seminars and to complete two pieces of written formative coursework. The first will be an essay outline, including a full introductory paragraph, that will be peer-reviewed. The second will be a 1,500 word essay on one of the topics addressed in the course for which students will receive feedback from the teacher.

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.
  • Escobar, A., & Alvarez, S.E. (1992). The making of social movements in Latin America: identity, strategy, and demoracy.
  • Fox Piven, F., & Cloward, R. (1978). Poor People’s Movements: why they succeed, how they fail.
  • Garza, A. (2020). The Purpose of Power.
  • 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
  • James, C.L.R. (1989 [1963, 1938]. The Black Jacobins: Touissant L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution.
  • 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.


Essay (100%, 3000 words) in the ST.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 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 differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching 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 2020/21: 24

Average class size 2020/21: 6

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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