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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Michael W Mc Cann
POL S 564
Seattle Campus

Law and the Politics of Social Change

Explores the many ways that law figures into the politics of social struggle and reform activity. Analyzes law in terms of particular state institutions (courts, agencies), professional elites (lawyers, judges), and especially cultural norms ("rights" discourses) that are routinely mobilized by reform-movement activists.

Class description

This seminar focuses on the question of how legal institutions and legal ideologies influence efforts to produce or prevent social change. We will examine what happens when individuals and groups attempt to use law or courts to obtain benefits or protection from government. Some parts of the course will focus on court-initiated action while other parts focus on social actions “from below” (social movements), but overall the course will analyze the interactions between state legal actors and social groups. Discussion will focus on both empirical studies of such efforts and at the broader theoretical frameworks scholars have used to understand the power and possibilities of law. Law will be analyzed in terms of particular state institutions (especially but not exclusively courts), professional elites (lawyers, legal academics), cultural norms (rights discourses, legal consciousness), and international institutional frameworks for protecting human rights. The readings will begin with case materials and theorizing from the U.S. context, but materials beyond the U.S. will be featured in the last half of the course and comparative theoretical analysis will be emphasized throughout.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Meera Roy
Date: 03/23/2011