The Politics of Rights

Instructor: corrine mcconnaughy

In the American experience, individuals’ social and economic statuses have been wound up with their political status—sex, sexuality, race, literacy, age, citizenship status, property holding, and criminal records have all been used to define rights of political participation and civic equality. Looking to both history and contemporary debates, this workshop examines the connections between social, economic, and political status. We will take up questions about the strategies of groups seeking new political rights, the interests that have sought to curtail rights expansions, and the responses of the political system, including political parties, elected politicians, and appointed government officials. Research questions addressed in this course might include: Does polarization incentivize restriction of the electorate? Have restrictions on labor organizing curtailed other political organizing among the American working class? Under what conditions do protests help secure new political rights? What causes public opinion changes on questions of group rights? What incentivizes organizing for political rights before new economic policies? We will focus primarily on the American context, but the ideas and research methods should inform broader consideration, thus students with interests in rights politics outside the United States are welcome to join.