Law, Social Movements, and Public Policy: Comparative and International Experience

Course Info

Course Number/Code: 11.166 (Fall 2002)
Course Title: Law, Social Movements, and Public Policy: Comparative and International Experience
Course Level: Undergraduate / Graduate
Offered By: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
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Department: Urban Studies and Planning
Course Instructor(s): Prof. Balakrishnan Rajagopal
Course Introduction:
Syllabus Course Description

The past three decades have witnessed a proliferation of social movements in several countries as well as globally. These movements challenge given conceptions of the relationship between states and civil society and between the global normative/institutional order and civil society. The same period has also witnessed an explosion in 'rights talk' across the world in several areas of public policy including civil rights, gender justice, environment and welfare. The course will explore the relationship between these trends by asking several questions including: how is public policy generally believed to be made? What is the role of law and legal institutions such as courts and government agencies in that process? Does the formal existence of legal rights matter? What propels these institutions to make public policy? Is social change generated and sustained by law primarily or by social movements? How important is the role of social movements for the generation and implementation of public policy? By asking these and other questions, this course attempts to provide a contextual perspective on how laws and legal institutions can be made to work better to address issues of social justice.

After an introduction to theoretical frameworks on social movements, law and public policy, the first half of the course will be devoted to an in-depth examination of the experience of law and legal institutions in the US and India. Issues covered include environment, civil rights, gender and poverty/welfare/social justice. The second half of the course will examine emerging global public policy in several areas including human rights, trade, development and environment and the increasing contestation between social movements and global economic institutions such as the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The purpose of this course is to examine the 'ground' conditions under which law and legal institutions contribute to social change through their impact on public policy. Through this approach, the course aims to provide students a critical understanding of the range of legal tools and methods used in a variety of public policy settings, and the circumstances under which they sometimes fail or succeed.

Course Requirements and Grading

This course will meet twice a week and will be structured around lectures/presentations by the instructor and visitors. This course requires active student participation in discussions and therefore the students are expected to read all the assigned readings carefully and prepare to be called upon in class. In addition, two classes will feature a 'group debate' format, which will require students to prepare and debate on previously assigned positions on issues, in conjunction with other students. Each student will also be responsible for writing three short papers (4-5 pages long, double spaced) on problems that are assigned by the instructor. Late submissions will not be graded.

Undergraduate students may take this course as a HASS course and their grading will be as follows:

Undergraduate Grading

Table for Undergraduate GradingACTIVITIESPERCENTAGESThree Short Papers75%Class Participation Including Group Debates25%

Graduate students who take this course need to complete all the above requirements and write a final paper (25 pages long, double spaced) on a research topic that they identify in consultation with the instructor. Generally, this topic needs to be on a specific social movement in any part of the world or at the global level. The paper needs to be based on independent research. Late submissions will result in a fail grade. Graduate grading will be as follows:

Graduate Grading

Table for Graduate GradingACTIVITIESPERCENTAGESFinal Paper30%Three Short Papers45%Class Participation Including Group Debates25%