Political Participation beyond the State
Full course description
This course traces how civilians in democratic societies have organized themselves throughout the past century to exert political influence beyond institutional state politics. By scrutinizing a historical case study each week, it examines a broad and divergent range of alternatives to state politics, and asks how these alternative modes of action relate to state politics. Why, for instance, have environmentalists wagered on NGOs, as well as on grassroots actions? What do recent mass railway strikes in countries such as the United Kingdom and the Netherlands tell us about the limits of state politics in these countries? And why did feminist action groups from the 1960s opt for disruptive and controversial public performances? By studying and comparing the particularities of these diverse cases, and by delving into current scholarship on grassroots action, non-state political participation, and social movements, the course will provide students with an overview of different types of civic participation beyond the state. Applying these insights will help students make sense of complex political and social clashes, and help them to critically assess the benefits as well as shortcomings of contemporary representative democracies. Furthermore, students will learn to historicize civic action, and examine why different forms of civic participation have arisen in different historical contexts. They will also learn to make empirically founded arguments regarding the efficacy of different forms of participation in light of different societal issues and causes.
By the end of the course students will be able to demonstrate that they:
- Understand which different modes of political engagement are employed by citizens throughout representative democracies.
- Understand how different modes of engagement have arisen from different needs and different historical contexts.
- Understand the potential limits and benefits of different modes of engagement, and that these limits and benefits may vary between causes or contexts.
- Understand that different modes of political engagement influence one another, may feed off of one another, strengthen one another, or weaken one another.
- Apply the knowledge and key concepts of the course (i.e. social movements, politics of expertise, representative democracy) to analyze and understand contemporary and past cases of civic engagement and social friction.
No specific prior knowledge is required. However, a basic knowledge of different forms of political participation (i.e. of democratic governments, grassroots protests) will be an advantage.