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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Karl-Dieter Opp
SOC 581
Seattle Campus

Special Topics in Theory and the History of Sociological Thought

Examination of current topics in theory and the history of sociological thought. Content varies according to recent developments in the field and the interests of the instructor.

Class description

Social Movements and Political Protest. An Introduction to and Critical Analysis of the Theoretical Perspectives SOC581, Wednesdays, 3:30 pm to 5:20 pm, MUS 212


See my CV:

I. Idea of the Seminar and Procedure Idea. This course will provide a critical introduction to and comparison of the most important theoretical perspectives that explain the emergence, stability and decline of social movements and protest participation. The purpose is thus not a detailed description of the development of major social movements, but a critical discussion of the existing explanations. Most theoretical perspectives begin with an article, a book chapter, or a book. Our discussion in class begins with a critical analysis of this basic literature of a theoretical approach. In a next step, we will look at the further development of the respective approach. The following questions will be addressed for each theoretical perspective: (1) What are its propositions? If they are not clear: how could they be formulated more precisely? (2) What are the problems of the propositions? In particular: (2a) What kind of information do they provide and not provide, i.e. what is their explanatory value)? (2b) To what extent are the propositions tested and confirmed? What could be situations where they may not hold true (i.e. what are plausible falsifications)? (2c) How does the perspective discussed differ from the perspectives discussed in previous sessions? Thus, the class will not only provide a simple description of each theoretical perspective (who wrote what?), but offers a critical discussion and a comparison. My book from 2009 is based on this idea as well: Opp, Karl-Dieter. 2009. Theories of Political Protest and Social Movements. A Multidisciplinary Introduction, Critique and Synthesis. London and New York: Routledge. The book provides a detailed discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the existing theoretical perspectives about social movements and political protest, and a suggestion for a synthesis (the “structural-cognitive model” which will be discussed in class – see below). Some of the required readings for this class are discussed in the book as well. However, I would strongly recommend NOT reading the chapters before discussion of the readings in class, but after the discussion. So you should read the original articles and not just a summary provided in the book. AND you should think about strengths and weaknesses yourself in the very first place, and only then read the discussion in the book. Procedure. For each session, one to three students (depending on the size of the class) should lead the discussion for about an hour (at least). The student or students should (1) begin with a brief overview of the required readings – “brief” means a maximum of 10 minutes, not longer! –, (2) prepare questions to be discussed in class (ideally, the list of questions could be e-mailed to all of us a day or two before class), (3) explore the "additional readings" if the "required readings" do not suffice to find enough questions (note that the additional readings are ordered according to the importance for the respective theme), and (4) lead the discussion. (5) I recommend that the discussion leaders meet with me at least one day before class to go through the questions, but this is only a recommendation. The required readings will be available as pdf-files. Regular attendance (and participation in the discussion) and a paper, to be turned in by the end of May are – in addition to being discussion leader in a session – other requirements for a grade (for details see below section V). You may choose any theme that is related to political protest and social movements. You should prepare a one-page outline of your theme and talk to me by the end of April. It goes without saying that each participant has read the "required readings" that are listed below for each topic and comes to class with some critical questions that can be discussed, in addition to those prepared by the discussion leader or leaders. I would also ask you to bring the printouts of the required readings to class so that they can be discussed in detail.

Student learning goals

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General method of instruction

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Recommended preparation

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Class assignments and grading

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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 Karl-Dieter Opp
Date: 01/31/2014