The course begins by examining theories of social movements, collective action,  and contentious politics.  It then moves on to examine how social movements engage with the policy process and the ways in which social movement activism informs social policy formulation and implementation.  It examines the nature, past and present roles of social movements and their potential capacity in shaping social policy in developed  and developing countries, and in democratic, hybrid, or authoritarian regimes.  The course covers theoretical arguments and examines empirical examples and case studies.

The course examines the following topics: the role and impact of social movement activism in identifying and meeting needs; the role of grassroots mobilizations and solidarity; how movements are affected by  regulatory frameworks; how and when movements achieve their objectives; movements relations with other actors (including, NGOs, trade unions, political parties, etc.); populism. 

The coure considers the development, transformation, autonomy, interdependence, and probity of social movements. It draws on examples of social movements in different periods, countries, and areas of activity to examine and analyse how change happens and the obstacles to change.