SOAS University of London

Department of Development Studies

Civil Society , Social Movements and the Development Process (MSc RID)

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2016/2017
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Term 2

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 module’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 module on offer in the department (CC1). In addition to addressing gaps in knowledge and in departmental module offerings, the module 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 module will address needs and interests of students currently not directly met in departmental offerings. It should be mentioned that another rationale behind offering this module is to work towards establishing a ‘Civil Society’ concentration for the MSc in Development Studies, in conjunction with the already existing module on NGOs.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of this module, 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 Seminar.

Scope and syllabus

This module will be delivered alongside the parallel module, '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 module, and will be identified by the module convenor and communicated to students at the start the module.

Method of assessment

100% Coursework. Each student will be required to submit 2 essays, one essay of no more than 2000 words worth 40% of the overall grade and the second essay no more than 3000 words worth 60% of the overall grade. . Resubmission of coursework regulations apply.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules