17.581 | Spring 2013 | Undergraduate

Riots, Rebellions, Revolutions


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session


There are no prerequisites for this course.

Course Description

The course aims to enhance the student’s ability to analyze contentious and violent political events. The first section addresses four different individual level mechanisms that drive individual participation in these events—rationality, psychological forces, social norms, and emotions. The second section examines how these individual level forces aggregate and combine. The third section applies the lessons from the first two sections to analyze variation in U.S. riots over the course of the Twentieth Century. The fourth section examines contentious events, both in violent and non-violent forms, during the course of the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe. The fifth section discusses major social revolutions. The sixth section applies the course theories and methods to the Arab Spring and current conflict in Mali.

Grading Policy

Class attendance and participation 20%
In-class quiz 15%
In-class presentation of an agent-based modeling exercise 15%
In-class presentation of a comparative analysis of some aspect of the Arab Spring 15%
Final exam 35%

Required Books

The books listed below are required reading for this course.

Elster, Jon. Explaining Social Behavior: More Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences. Cambridge University Press, 2007. ISBN: 9780521777445. [Preview with Google Books]

Judah, Tim. Kosovo: What Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford University Press, 2008. ISBN: 9780195373455. [Preview with Google Books]

McAdam, Doug, Sidney Tarrow, and Charles Tilly. Dynamics of Contention. Cambridge University Press, 2001. ISBN: 9780521011877. [Preview with Google Books]

Skocpol, Theda. States & Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of French, Russia, & China. Cambridge University Press, 1979. ISBN: 9780521294997. [Preview with Google Books]

Additional readings come from a variety of sources and are detailed in the Readings section.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2013
Learning Resource Types
Problem Sets