Justice, Democracy and Social Movements

Course Description: 
This is a University-wide Course and it is open to all CEU students.

In support of the open society principles of Central European University and its key role in “building open and democratic societies that respect human rights and human dignity,” this course convenes students from different disciplines in a learning forum in which the contested and complex notion of justice is explored in the context of democratic principles and social movements.  For example, how do different disciplines theorize the relationship between justice and democratic participation, particularly in the context of social movements? Is there hope for democratic justice, particularly as articulated and promoted by social movements?  We will engage these issues and explore these questions as we work through and critically analyze the notion of democratic justice by questioning its tenets and manifestations, particularly in the context of social movements.  In this process, we will investigate real case studies in a team problem-solving exercise in the Social Justice Lab. 

This course convenes diverse analytical frameworks from philosophy, rational choice political science, legal studies, sociology and environmental studies that explore justice, democracy and social movements from the perspectives of philosophical questions, voting and rational choice political models, formal legal processes and structures, and environmental justice. Faculty from these disciplinary perspectives engage democracy critically to explore its relationship to justice, supported with readings, class exercises, and team problem solving in the Social Justice Lab. 

Guiding Questions:

  • How does democracy promote or fail to promote justice?
  • What role do social movements play in democracy? Can they rectify injustices within a democracy, and if so, how?
Learning Outcomes: 

Upon completion of this course, students will:

  • have a unique interdisciplinary perspective and analytical capacities regarding the promotion of justice and democracy
  • be able to interrogate the relation between justice and democracy including: 1) addressing the question of "why democracy?"; 2) understanding more about voting dynamics and how they help or hinder democratic ideals, or are affected by participation; 3) seeing how and where legal frameworks and processes align or do not align with democratic ideals of justice; 4) exploring decisionmaking from an environmental perspective; and 5) exploring the efficacy of social movements. 
  • be able to formulate and apply principles of justice in the context of democratic participation including social movements.

1) Four in-class knowledge quizzes on the readings. Lowest score, or one absence, is excluded from grading (3 X 5% each= 15%).

2) Two two-page reflection papers (2 X 15% each= 30%).

2) Team case study project:

a) Project proposal (living document) (15%)

b) Multi-media curation (a compilation or "folder" comprising varied materials (e.g., texts, figures and tables, audio, video, images, etc.) --to be explained more in class) (30%)

c) Public Presentation (10%)


None. This course is amenable to both masters and doctoral level studies.  Doctoral students, however, will be expected to have a deeper and more nuanced level of engagement reflected in their roles in the class and in their performance on assignments based on the grading rubrics provided in the detailed course syllabus on the e-learning site.