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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

George I Lovell
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

Description: How can law and legal institutions be helpful to individual and groups seeking to bring about social change? Should social movement leaders devote resources to litigation campaigns rather than other forms of political action? Does the ideological character of rights based legal claims inhibit or deradicalize movements that employ such claims? This course considers such questions. Participants will examine the contribution that law and legal processes can make to the development and maintenance of social reform activity. Law will be analyzed in terms of particular state institutions (courts, legislatures, agencies), professional elites (lawyers, judges) and cultural ideologies. The class will emphasize the complex, paradoxical ways in which legal mobilization practices provide both resources and constraints for citizens locked into social struggle. The primary focus is on the United States, but students are invited to pursue research interests in other locations.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Students will be expected to participate in seminar discussions, write several short papers, and complete a longer term paper.

Recommended preparation

Text: To be announced. Contact Instructor at glovell@u.washington.edu

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.
Additional Information
Last Update by Suman C. Chhabra
Date: 11/10/2004