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Social Movements: Class, Community, and Politics

at Brooklyn Institute for Social Research -

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Class Level: All levels
Age Requirements: 21 and older
Average Class Size: 12

Flexible Reschedule Policy: This provider has flexible, free rescheduling for any-in person workshop. Please see the cancellation policy for more details

What you'll learn in this society class:

Social movements are often pitted against other forms of organization, like unions or political parties, in both analysis and in everyday practice. The argument sometimes reduces to a pitched battle between community, or “identity”-based, politics and “class struggle.” But is this the case? Since the mid-20th century, social movements have increasingly reflected the complexity of modern capitalism. On the one hand, conditions related to social class—and capitalism more broadly—remain pivotal, as inequality and precarity increase, and living standards decline. 

On the other, increased recognition of cultural realms beyond the economy, labor, and the workplace has recast social and political life–spurring greater popular participation in political life and reframing questions of democracy, activism, and oppression. What are the arguments for (and against) separating the experiences of racialized, gendered, sexual, and other marginalities from the experiences of economic dispossession? Can economic struggles be conceived apart from struggles for recognition and vice versa? What is a social movement? What are the possibilities between identity formation and capitalist dynamics? What role has neoliberalism played in shaping the relationships between class and identity?

In this course, we’ll attempt to answer these questions as we read analyses from social movement, Marxist, and other critical theoretical perspectives. We will examine the stories and  experiences of several social movements and organizations from the mid-20th century onwards to bring together textured histories and theoretical analyses. How do these perspectives work together and complicate each other? What can be gained from examining them all together and, perhaps, synthetically? 

Case studies may include the Black Panthers, Young Lords, Wages for Housework, Poland’s Solidarity, Occupy Wall Street, and Brazil’s Landless Movement. Drawing from theory, history, and experience we students will explore the vast strategic vacuum that exists between reductive economic and cultural accounts.

There *is* no physical Brooklyn Institute. We hold our classes all over (thus far) Brooklyn and Manhattan, in alternative spaces ranging from the back rooms of bars to bookstores to spaces in cultural centers, including the Center for Jewish History, the Goethe-Institut, and the Barnard Center for Research on Women. We can (and do) turn any space into a classroom. You will be notified of the exact location when you register for a class.

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Refund Policy

Note: This provider has a temporary cancellation policy for COVID-19 related cancellations which is as follows:

We'll grant full course credit up to the start of the first class. After the first class we can offer 75% course credit; after the second 50%; and after the third 25%.


Original cancellation policy (non-COVID-19):

Upon request, we will refund the entire cost of a class up until 1 week before its start date. Students who withdraw after that point but before the first class are entitled to a 75% refund. After the first class: 50%. After the second: 25%. No refunds will be given after the third class.


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Reviews of Classes at Brooklyn Institute for Social Research (21)

School: Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research was established in 2011 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Its mission is to extend liberal arts education and research far beyond the borders of the traditional university, supporting community education needs and opening up new possibilities for scholarship in the...

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