A World of Protests: The New Social Movements (in English)

ISA Study Center with Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo-Sevilla

Course Description

  • Course Name

    A World of Protests: The New Social Movements (in English)

    Course Closed
  • Host University

    ISA Study Center with Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo-Sevilla

  • Location

    Seville, Spain

  • Area of Study

    International Affairs, International Relations

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations


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    Hours & Credits

  • Contact Hours

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    Precedents:On December 17th, 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor in the Southern Tunisian city of Sidi Bouzid, set himself on fire, in a tragic act of protest that sparked a Revolution. It spread like wildfire throughout North Africa and the Middle-East, from Morocco to Syria, the Arabian Peninsula and beyond. Soon after, the 15-M (May 15th) movement of the indignados in Spain -protesting against inequality and the unaccountable power of ?bankers and corrupt politicians?- took over Spanish plazas (squares) bringing the country to a standstill. In a matter of months, social movements organized through social networks and cell phones, spread throughout the world: Occupy Wall Street in the United States; student protests in Chile; the ?YoSoy132? (?I?m132?) movement in México; the anti-corruption campaign in India, led by Anna Hazare; December demonstrations in Moscow denouncing a rigged election by Vladimir Putin?s regime; hundreds of thousands of Israelis setting up tent camps to vent their anger against rising housing prices; even the normally contained Japanese filled the streets to demand the end of nuclear power, after the Fukushima accident.


    The globalization of protest: 2011 became known as ?the year of global protest?: social movements became as global as finance, trade and communication?s technology. Indignation against inequality, corruption, authoritarianism and the rigging of the system in favor of the powerful and privileged, turned out to be a universal theme across continents, cultures, political systems and levels of development. Something new and significant is shaping up, as millions everywhere become involved in social movements pitted against the status quo. Neither Governments, political parties nor private businesses can afford to ignore them.


    Course contents: The course will be a combination of: 1) sociological, political and economic theory -surveying the already varied literature on the subject- (22 hours of class sessions); 2) field work in Seville with activists, leaders and analysts of the 15-M Spanish movement (indignados), devoted to four areas: a) the role of social networks; b) the role of conventional media; c) interaction with the establishment: political system and institutions; and d) internal organization and decision-making processes; 3) live Skype connections with activists, leaders and commentators from: Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Israel and New York.


    Guest speakers: There will be field work with activists of the 15-M movement in Seville, journalists and institutional representatives from Andalusia; and Skype connections with activists and professors from Morocco, Tunisia, Israel, Jordan, United States (New York), México and Chile. Each colloquium and Skype connection will be conducted in English and approached with an academic methodology (conceptual framework; data research and selection; questionnaire; seeking contrasting views; group debate and conclusions).


    Learning outcomes: After the course, students should have acquired a basic theoretical knowledge of the common traits behind the new social movements (economics, sociology, communication and politics), as well as their national and cultural differences, combined with a practical understanding, from within, of how these movements actually work and develop. All of this placed in the historical context of 25 years of globalization, frequent and intense financial crises, increasing inequality within countries, a new global economic balance with new emerging economies, a rising global middle class, and a failing international governance system.


    Knowing basic facts, history and concepts of globalization

    Understanding the magnitude and drivers of income and wealth inequality and its varieties worldwide

    Understanding the institutional causes of state failure and political instability

    Being able to explain the nature of modern democracy and its relationship with social change

    Basic understanding of the Arab Spring, its evolution and consequences till today

    Practical knowledge of the internal workings of social movements, from the experience of the 15-M movement in Spain

    Understanding why mass protests emerge, how they turn into consistent, long term social movements, and how they effect, or fail to effect, political change


    Course contents:

    UNIT 1: GLOBALIZATION: ONE WORLD LIKE IT OR NOT. DO GLOBAL MARKETS, COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY, CULTURAL INTERACTION AND HUMAN MOBILITY DETERMINE A COMMON FATE FOR HUMANITY? Since the early 1990s globalization has changed our world. We examine the political, economic/financial and technological factors driving globalization. But globalization is not only global markets, but also a communications revolution, more intense cultural interaction and increasing flows of news, images and ideas. With it comes an incipient global civil society and increasing human mobility: emigration and a global professional elite. We are increasingly bound up in one world, but who governs it?

    UNIT 2: THE SPARK: THE ARAB WORLD ON FIRE. ARAB EXCEPTIONALISM OR CULTURAL SHOCK? Since the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt that sparked a wave of protests that swept through the Arab world, social protests have degenerated into military coups (Egypt), civil wars (Syria), tribal chaos (Libya) or cosmetic institutional changes (Morocco and Jordan). Only Tunisia has seen a stable transition to democracy. We analyze how and why social protests have given way to such disparate results. Is Arab cultural exceptionalism about to end? Or does the turmoil after the Arab Spring reflect a civilizational shock with global modernity?

    UNIT 3: THE IMPACT OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIAL NETWORKS: BETWEEN PROPAGANDA, SOCIAL MOBILIZATION AND NETWORK ORGANIZATION. The traditional communication system is changing fast into something which is both new and dangerous. People and corporations can now access a wider range of information, ideas and images from others, by means of ?social media?, in a completely open and decentralized fashion. Classical rules no longer apply and the consequences go beyond the known. From a means of enhancing personal social life, to grassroots organization and political mobilization social network organization has empowered social movements like never before.

    UNIT 4: THE THIRD WAVE OF DEMOCRATIZATION: WESTERN VALUES OR MODERN VALUES? Since the end of the Cold War the world has seen democracy spread from Eastern Europe to Latin America and further to East Asia. However, the wave of democratic change seems to have been reversed since the financial crisis (2008), with both military takeovers and deterioration in the quality of governance calling into question what was deemed an irreversible and universal trend spreading Western liberal democracy.

    UNIT 5: THE ROLE OF CONVENTIONAL MAINSTREAM MEDIA: BETWEEN THE ESTABLISHMENT AND THE STREET. Mass media?s role is to inform the public and act as conduits for the debates of the community. But media corporations are subject, in varying degrees, to pressure by the political and economic establishment. This clashes with the basic ethics of journalism: to serve the citizens? right to truthful and relevant information. However, social media has created a new milieu: a space which empowers citizens to produce and exchange their own information, images and ideas. We examine the role of conventional media as intermediaries between political institutions and the new social media through which protests have thrived.

    UNIT 6: THE INTERNAL DYNAMICS OF SOCIAL MOVEMENTS: MOBILIZATION, PARTICIPATION AND DECISION-MAKING. Since the onset of the financial crisis, protests have sprung all over the world demanding to change the economic and political systems. What is new about these movements is that people want to have a saying on these matters: they want changes of which they are a part. We analyze how techniques for organizing street protests give way to procedures for social participation and collective decision making -both through social networks and public square meetings/assemblies-.

    UNIT 7: THE GLOBALIZATION OF PROTEST: THE NEW INEQUALITY AND THE RISING MIDDLE CLASSES. After the Arab Spring social protests spread through Europe (Spain), United States (Occupy Wall Street), Latin America (Mexico, Chile, Brasil), Turkey, Russia and India. Beyond the different political and cultural contexts, one common theme: the frustration of rising middle classes with increasing inequality and corruption plus a jammed political system.

    UNIT 8: MEASURING INEQUALITY AND THE IMPACT OF THE CRISIS: SOCIAL SERVICES, ANTI-FORECLOSURE MOVEMENT, TRADE UNIONS, INMIGRANTS, NGOs. A round table will bring together government officials, social services, representatives of the anti-foreclosure movement, trade unions and immigrant?s organizations. They will be asked to evaluate the social consequences of the crisis in Spain, the rise of inequality, the new forms of poverty and social exclusion, and the response of government institutions.

    UNIT 9: BETWEEN GRASSROOT PROTEST AND POLITICAL POWER: INTERACTION WITH THE ESTABLISHMENT, INSTITUTIONS AND POLITICAL PARTIES. During the 15-M movement demonstrators chanted ?They call it democracy, but it is not?, ?We are not merchandise for politicians and bankers to trade with?. We explore how the democratic system has responded to this challenge to its legitimacy. How does the social movement and their spokespersons interact with the democratic institutions? In Andalusia, two laws have been approved to channel the movements? demands for more transparency and citizen?s participation. Students will visit the Andalusian Parliament and the City Council of Seville and engage with politicians in a question and answer session.

    UNIT 10 (THEORY): CONCLUSIONS: CAN SOCIAL MOVEMENTS TRANSLATE PROTEST INTO POLITICAL CHANGE? We draw theoretical conclusions from the diversity of social movements in the world: What are the common factors that spark social protests in the XXI century? Are we witnessing a social globalization? Is inequality a product of global markets and technology? Is it driven by institutional and political factors? What determines the differing political fates of social movements? How have successful social movements and activists translated street protest into institutional change and political power?

    Final paper & Presentation: All students in groups of 2 will be responsible for choosing a country in the world (Except the USA) and will have to create a marketing plan for a product or service of their choice. This information will be presented in class.

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Eligibility for courses may be subject to a placement exam and/or pre-requisites.

Availability of courses is based on enrollment numbers. All students should seek pre-approval for alternate courses in the event of last minute class cancellations