SMNR: Social Movements & Legal Change

This seminar will study the relationship between social movements and legal change through an investigation of the environmental movement. We will use historical, sociological and legal materials. Legislation, regulation, and litigation are often viewed as the primary tools for producing social change in our society. Yet many commentators have noted that legal rule shifting is rarely sufficient to produce sustainable social change. In order to create stable change any rule shifting must be accompanied by a deep cultural shift. Another way to conceive of our task is to ask: How do social and political movements facilitate the creation of social meaning and how is that meaning reflected in the technical application of the law? Some questions we will discuss include: 1. What are the origins of social movements? Is there an adequate typology of social movements? What are the typical phases or evolution of social movements? 2. Is (or was) the U.S. "environmental movement" a true social movement? 3. How does the "environmental movement" compare and contrast with the civil rights movement, the women's movement, the property rights movement or any other major social movement? 4. How does all this relate to the evolution of environmental laws? 5. In light of our analysis, what does this portend for the future of environmentalism? Because of the controversy raised by Shellenberger and Nordhaus (The Death of Environmentalism) and the response (The Soul of Environmentalism), one overarching topic is whether the concept of an "environmental" movement is passi or wrong. If a movement is required what shall it be?

Class Details

Meeting Days Time Location
Thursday 12:30 - 2:20 pm TNH 3.114
Evaluation Method Date Time Alpha Range Room

Additional Information

Course Type


Torres, Gerald Torres, Gerald