Course Description

Course Name

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

Session: VSVS1121

Hours & Credits

45 Contact Hours

Prerequisites & Language Level

Taught In English

  • There is no language prerequisite for courses at this language level.


Course Description: After taking this course, students should have acquired a basic theoretical knowledge of the common traits (related to economics, sociology, communication and politics) behind new social movements. Students will also have a better understanding of the national and cultural differences of social movements, combined with a practical understanding of how these movements function 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, shaky democracies and a failing international governance system.

Learning Oucomes:

- Knowing basic facts, history and concepts of globalization

- Understanding the role of the Internet in enabling a new wave of social movements since 2011.

- Understanding the magnitude and drivers of income and wealth inequality and its varieties worldwide, plus other patterns of discrimination (sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, social class) and subjugation.

- 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

- 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 content

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); and 3) live Skype connections with activists, leaders and commentators from: Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, and New York.

UNIT 1: 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 2: 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 3: THE IMPACT OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIAL NETWORKS: BETWEEN PROPAGANDA, SOCIAL MOBILIZATION AND NETWORK ORGANIZATION. The traditional communication system are changing fast into something which is both new and uncertain. 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 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 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: 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?

Course Material:


• “Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age”, Manuel Castells, Polity Press, 2012.

• “The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century” Samuel Huntington, University of Oklahoma Press, 1991.

• “Capital in the XXIst Century”, Thomas Piketty, Harvard University Press, 2014

• “Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty”, James Robinson and Daron Acemoglu, Crown Business, 2012.

• “Logic of Collective Action”, by Mancur Olson, in Vincenzo Ruggiero and Nicola Montagna, Eds. “Social Movements: A Reader” (London: Routledge, 2008), pp. 93-93.

• “Now Out of Never: The Element of Surprise in the East European Revolution”, Timur Kuran, “World Politics”, Vol 44, Nº 1 (Oct. 1993), pp. 7-48.

• “World Protests 2006 – 2013”, Isabel Ortiz, Sara Burke, Mohamed Berrada, Herán Cortés, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Working Paper September 2013.

• “A Middle Class Revolution”, Eric Goldstein, Foreign January 18, 2011

• “The Praxis of the Egyptian Revolution”, Mona El-Ghobasy, “Middle East Report 258” (Spring 2011)

• “Demystifying the Arab Spring”, Lisa Anderson, Foreign Affairs, May/June 2011

• “A Tunisian-Egyptian Link That Shook Arab History”, David D. Kirkpatrick and David E. Sanger, The New York Times, February 13, 2011,

• “Syria’s Sons of No One,” Anthony Shadid, The New York Times, August 31, 2011,

• “The Frankenstein of Tahrir Square”, Steven A. Cook, December 19, 2011,

• “The Arab Counterrevolution”, Hussein Agha and Robert Malley, The New York Times, September 29, 2011,

• “Why Occupy Wall Street is Not the Tea Party of the Left”, Sidney Tarrow, Foreign Affairs, October 10, 2011,

• “The Protestor,” Kurt Anderson, Time, December 14, 2011,,28804,2101745_2102132,00.html

• “Globalizing Occupy Wall Street: From Chile to Israel, Protests Erupt,” Lois Becket,, October 25, 2011,

• “¡Indignaos!”, Stepehn Hessel, Ediciones Destino, Barcelona, 2011

• “La Primavera Árabe”, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Alianza Editorial, Madrid, 2011

• “The Invisible Arab: The Promise and Peril of the Arab Revolutions”, Marwan Bishara, Nations Books, 2012.

• “Hablan los Indignados: Protestas y Materiales de Trabajo”, Editorial Popular, Madrid 2011.

• “Waking From Its Sleep”, “Special Report on the Arab World”, The Economist,

• “Demographics of Arab Protests”, Ragui Assaad, Professor, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota,, February 14, 2011.

• “A Voice as Powerful as Countries: Can Al-Jazeera Topple Governments?”, Matthias Gebauer and Yassin Musharbash, Der Spiegel.

· “No Internet, No Revolution? A Review of Manuel Castells’ “Networks of Outrage and

Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age” by Nawroos Shibli 01/09/2014 (William

Coleman’s Blog)

· “The Globalization Paradox: Democracy and the Future of the World Economy"

Dani Rodrik 2011.

· “Same as It Ever Was: Why the Techno-Optimists Are Wrong. Martin Wolf (Foreign Affairs, July-August 2015).

· “Will Humans Go the Way of Horses? Labor in the Second Machine Age” Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee (Foreign Affairs, July-August 2015).

· “The Zombie System: How Capitalism Has Gone Off the Rails”, Michael Sauga (23 Oct, 2014, Der Spiegel)

· “The Third Great Wave” (The Economist, Oct 4th 2014)

· “Challenging the Oligarchy”, Paul Krugman DECEMBER 17, 2015 ISSUE, Review of “Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few” by Robert B. Reich (The New York Review of Books)

· “Inequality, Dignity and Freedom”, Paul Krugman (The New York Times, FEB. 13, 2014)

· “Why We’re in a New Gilded Age”, Paul Krugman MAY 8, 2014 ISSUE, Review of “Capital in the Twenty-First Century”, by Thomas Piketty (The New York Review of Books)

Course Evaluation:

20% Tasks and attendance

40% Final exam

30% Projects

10% Subjective evaluation (students are expected to come prepared to class and the professor will value that students are showing a mark of improvement)

Spanish Grading Scale:

Matrícula de Honor 10 Sobresaliente 9 – 9,9 Notable 7 – 8,9 Aprobado 5 – 6,9 Suspenso 0 – 4,9 No Asistencia (Student has exceeded the allowed number of unexcused absences)

Please find as a reference the following grading scale conversion. However, it is ultimately the responsibility of the student’s home university or institution to determine the final grade equivalencies.

Matrícula de Honor = A+ Suspenso = F Sobresaliente = A No presentado = Incomplete (attended Notable = B classes but did not take final exam) Aprobado =C No Asistencia = Incomplete (enrolled in the course but did not attend class)

Appealing grades: The deadline for disputing grades is 30 days from the reception of the certificate at the home university.

Class Attendance: class attendance is mandatory, and attendance is taken at every class meeting and is reflected in the course attendance sheet that is sent to the university. An 85% of attendance is required for the successful completion of the course. Not missing any class will be considered positively.

If a student exceeds this limit, the grade in the transcript for this subject could appear as “not attended course”.

*Course content subject to change