Alternatives and Resistance to Global Capitalism: Mexico, U.S., and Beyond

Fall 2017
Winter 2018
Spring 2018
OlympiaStudy Abroad
Olympia +
study abroad option
Class Size: 75
Credits per quarter
Variable Credit Options Available

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Taught by

Peter Bohmer
economics, political economy
feminist economics
latinx studies, cultural studies, education
Rogol square
Spanish Language

Revolutions of the 20th century made grand promises of liberation, independence from colonialism and imperial domination, and people struggled against racism, misogyny, capitalist exploitation and freedom from want. The initial decades of the 21st century witnessed an unprecedented groundswell of global popular movements demanding political, economic and social justice. From Cairo’s Tahrir to Oaxaca’s Zocalo, from Greece’s Syntagma Square to New York’s Zucotti Park, popular mass movements demanded, greater democracy, decried the growing inequality of income and wealth, and fought to reclaim public spaces where people gathered to learn about, and experiment with alternative forms of participatory democracy. Many of these democratizing aspirations were brutally suppressed by the military and police apparatus.

Today we see the rise of new populist movements that have tapped into the anxieties and fears of increasingly insecure middle and working classes, as well as the despair and anger of the impoverished. And yet ruling elites offer little or no hopeful visions of how to deal with the challenges of climate change, or how to create an economy with decent jobs, livable income, and old age security. While center-left ruling parties offer more of the same pro-market, pro-finance austerity policies that entail cutting social programs, right-populist movements have gained momentum by exploiting xenophobia, racism, fear and demonization of immigrants, as well as nationalism to suppress fears of economic insecurity.

This program will examine the historical and-material conditions that gave rise to the political and social revolutions of the 20th and 21st centuries, as well as to the resurgence of left and right wing populism as a contemporary phenomena. Through the disciplinary lenses of political economy, feminist theory, and cultural studies, we will explore how various ideas of liberation have emerged and changed over time, with the hope of changing both society and social consciousness. In fall quarter, we will begin by reviewing the historical development of global capitalism, and study theoretical frameworks such as Critical Pedagogy, Marxism, Anarchism, Keynesianism and neoclassical economics. Concurrently, we will explore and learn from case studies, such as the Paris Commune, the Mexican revolution, the Russian revolution, the Cuban revolution, Algerian independence, as well as political struggles in the U.S., Chile and Venezuela. In winter quarter, we will study contemporary global capitalism, focusing more closely on the interconnectedness of political economic conditions in Mexico and the U.S., as well as resistance movements in Chiapas and Oaxaca that have been the catalyst for the anti-neoliberal community-based organizing seen throughout Mexico- organizing, drawing on the Zapatista philosophy of “abajo y a la izquierda.” We will study questions of economic development, im/migration as a legacy of colonial relations, now reconstituted through neoliberal structural adjustment, combined with heightened militarization and corporate control. In our studies, we will examine the day-to-day realities of dislocation and dispossession through the literature of various diasporas, and the quest for community, sovereignty and economic security. For example, we will critically examine the Zapatista Movement in Chiapas and their projects for indigenous autonomy and dignidad.

During spring quarter students our class will travel and study for two months in Oaxaca and hopefully, Chiapas, Mexico. Through classes and guest speakers, students will continue their study of Spanish. Furthermore we will study the history, politics, economics, and cultures of rural and urban Mexico, Oaxaca and Chiapas. We will visit and meet with local artists, as well as community and activist organizations working towards creating a more just Mexico. Our home-stays will be based in the city of Oaxaca, but we will also travel and meet with groups in rural and indigenous communities in Oaxaca and Chiapas. Students will select a research project they will pursue and there will be opportunities for volunteer work with nongovernmental and other organizations. There may be opportunities for those who cannot travel to pursue similar study in Olympia.

Study abroad:

Students traveling to Mexico for the eight-week study abroad component in spring quarter will have an additional fee of approximately $2,190. This amount includes $1,200 for room and board during homestays in Oaxaca City and for food and lodgings outside Oaxaca City; $300 for transportation inside Mexico; $540 for classes in Spanish language and Mexican and Oaxacan history, culture, and political economy; and $150 to cover costs of guides, helping with logistics of travel in Mexico, lodgings, volunteer labor, etc. Students will need to arrange airfare (approximately $900) and incidental expenses (approximately $400–$500), such as gifts to the homestay host family. Students will be asked to pay a nonrefundable deposit of $200 by Week 3 of winter quarter. For details on study abroad, visit or contact Michael Clifthorne at .

This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in:

political economy, community-based organizations, advocacy, public policy, law and legal rights, education, alternative justice systems, graduate school in social science, history, law, geography, and political economy


Credits per quarter
Variable Credit Options Available

Variable Credit Options:

variable credit options available for students with Spanish language fluency.

Online learning:
  • Enhanced Online Learning - This offering requires access to web-based tools, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

$150 in fall and winter for overnight field trips.



Class Standing: Sophomore–Senior
Class Size: 75

Scheduled for: Day

Advertised schedule:

First class meeting: Tuesday, September 26 at 10am (Sem II D1105)

Located in: Olympia

2017-11-29Students joining the program will need to do some work over winter break to prepare for winter quarter.
2017-05-17This description has been updated.
2017-05-15Required deposit updated ($200).
2017-05-04This program has changed title (Political Economy of Revolutions and Social Movements of the 20th and 21st Century).