From Black Liberation to Solidarity Economics: Social Movements in the Neoliberal Era

Spring 2018
Class Size: 50
Credits per quarter
Variable Credit Options Available

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Taught by

feminist economics
Prita Lal square
food justice, social movements, urban agriculture, social inequalities

How do social movements contend with the politics of race, class and gender in their struggles for liberation? How were liberation struggles of the late 20th century affected by the dismantling of the welfare state and the turn to neoliberal capitalism? This program will examine the trajectory of social movements (and counter-movements) in the context of the rise of an economy of the 1% in the U.S. Through the interdisciplinary lenses of history, political economy, food justice and feminist theory, we will study the evolutions of social movements alongside the evolution of the U.S. economy.

The program is designed to support students doing internships and independent research projects during spring quarter. Students will either:

a) complete a 10 or 20 hour-per-week internship (for 4 or 8 credits), mentoring arrangements or other community-based work that support students’ interests; or,

b) work on a self-defined independent research project.

The remaining 8-credit academic component will be fulfilled by participation in weekly class meetings and collaborative project work.

We will begin by reading about the Black radical tradition among sharecroppers in Alabama during the Great Depression. We will learn about the policies that gave rise to the “American Dream” for some and segregation and marginalization for others. We will read about the ways in which liberation movements of the '60s and '70s used a variety of strategies and tactics to address economic, racial, and gender injustice, and explore some of the debates within the movement. We will learn about the multi-racial coalitions of solidarity among members of the black liberation, anti-war feminist movements, and explore the ways in which the social movements of the era were targeted by state repression. In the aftermath of assassinations and incarceration of movement leaders, as well as internal conflict, how did movement forces reconfigure?

In response to powerful movements for justice, how did the state reconfigure to promote private interests and delimit public spaces, and what did this mean for communities of color in the U.S.? How did neoliberal ideology arise as a class project that empowered and benefited the 1% and undermined collective struggles for liberation? Why, in the neoliberal era did many social movement leaders establish non-profits as vehicles for organizing, and how has this turn affected our struggles for economic as well as political democracy? Are food apartheid, prisons and state repression integral to neoliberal capitalism? How is the rise of mass incarceration related to the economy-wide process of deindustrialization and planned shrinkage? How have movement forces fought back against mass incarceration? Are food deserts inevitable in a market-driven economy? How have marginalized communities contested “food apartheid”?

At the end of the quarter, we will reflect on the old adage, "politics without economics is symbol without substance". We will consider how our study of social movements and US political economy offers us lessons that may be applied today, as we explore new possibilities for liberation envisioned by current social movements, as well as solidarity economics and worker-owned, democratically self-managed cooperatives. 

A typical week will involve lecture, seminar, film, workshop, and discussions, along with occasional field trips. Students will have the opportunity to present their learning in formal presentations at the end of the quarter.

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

Political economy, sociology, economics, history, education, community organizing, labor organizing, law, social justice and social work.


Credits per quarter
Variable Credit Options Available

Variable Credit Options:

Students may enroll for 12-16 credits.

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 for entrance fees, registration costs, and overnight field trip.

Internship Opportunities:

Students may arrange for a 10- (four credits) or 20- (eight credits) hour-per-week internship, mentoring arrangements or other community-based work that support students’ interests.

Research Opportunities:

Students may work on a self-defined independent research project.

Class Standing: Freshman–Senior
Class Size: 50

Scheduled for: Day

Final schedule and room assignments:

Located in: Olympia

2018-03-13This program will accept enrollment without signature.