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Department of Development Studies

Social Movements, Civil Society and Development (MSc RID)

Course Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Term 2

This course is only available to students enrolled on the MSc Research for International Development programme.

Social movements have been the missing link in the ‘civil society’ and ‘social capital’ literature that are now pervasive and influential within development thinking. This neglect of social movements in thinking about civil society is not accidental, since the latter term has been shorn of all political connotations as a precondition for its accommodation within developmental discourse. This course’s emphasis on social movements provides a more explicitly political approach to the role of civil society in development. This theme is addressed at this moment as one theme in one course on offer in the department (CC1). In addition to addressing gaps in knowledge and in departmental course offerings, the course also offers the opportunity to extend focus on more contemporary politics, including on-going contestations against global institutions, new property rights regimes, and against certain types of science and technology. These contestations are important because they have direct implications for developmental outcomes.

As a substantial segment of the ‘new social movements’ literature has emerged from the disciplines of development anthropology, politics and geography (the syllabus is multi-disciplinary), the course will address needs and interests of students currently not directly met in departmental offerings. It should be mentioned that another rationale behind offering this course is to work towards establishing a ‘Civil Society’ concentration for the MSc in Development Studies, in conjunction with the already existing course on NGOs.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

At the end of this course, a student should be able to demonstrate:

  • familiarity with the debates on civil society in social and political theory;
  • a broader understanding of civil society in social and political theory than that provided in mainstream development discourses;
  • an understanding of the relationship between civil society and contemporary social movement politics;
  • an understanding of the relationship between social movements and development agendas, an important subset of the politics and sociology of development.


Teaching takes place through a weekly 2 hour lecture and 1 hour tutorial.

Scope and syllabus

This course will be delivered alongside the parallel course, 'Civil society, social movements and the development process', worth 22.5 CATS credits. Students will have the opportunity to attend all lectures and tutorials, but the examinable component will be approximately 75% of the 22.5 CATS credits syllabus. Material delivered in the lectures and tutorials which is NOT examinable will equate to two of the ten weeks of the course, and will be identified by the course convenor and communicated to students at the start the course.

Method of assessment

60% exam, 40% coursework. Each student will be expected to submit one essay of no more than 4000 words. Resubmission of coursework regulations apply.