WWS 333/SOC 326 Spring 2014

Law, Institutions, and Public Policy

Paul Starr and Members of the Faculty


See also Course Information (instructors, requirements, assignments)

Where to find the readings: = E-reserves; = Blackboard course materials; = World Wide Web (hyperlink from syllabus);
= Stokes Library 3 hour reserve; also available for purchase at Labyrinth.

Week One. February 4 and 6. Introduction: the variety of institutions .
The first week of the course will lay out three cases designed to illustrate the range of institutions the course will consider: (1) publicly ordered institutions (citizenship), (2) private ordering within a legal framework (contract), and (3) institutions whose rules and practices are not generally established through law, though they may have the state's patronage or acceptance (science).

Week Two.February 11 and 13: What are institutions, and why do they matter? Contrasting disciplinary perspectives.
This week examines different approaches to institutional analysis and institutional change. The public-private distinction serves as a case study.

Week Three. February 18 and 20. Political institutions: state-building, the nation-state, and constitutionalism.
In this week, we will examine the rise and consolidation of the modern nation-state as both a social and a legal project.

Week Four. February 25 and 27. Democracy and law
We now take up questions about the institutional framework of democracy: What are the consequences of different institutional designs? What role does law play in regulating democracy? And can constitutions and courts prevent democracies from being undone democratically?

Weeks Five and Six. Legal institutions
We turn to the institutions that shape the legal process, focusing on courts, judges, and judicial review.

March 13. Midterm exam.


Week Seven.March 25 and 27: The institutions of capitalism and sources of economic growth
This week, drawing on comparative and historical evidence, we consider how institutions created through politics and law may affect economic growth, and how economic growth may affect institutions.

Week Eight April 1 and 3. Politics, technology, and constitutive choices: the case of communications.
Changes in politics and technology often upset old institutional frameworks and lead to new choices in institutional design. The history of communications, from the post office to broadcasting and the Internet, illustrates the pattern.

Week Nine. April 8 and 10. Civil society
This week we consider how institutional change has affected political advocacy and philanthropy.

Week Ten.April 15 and 17. Law and marriage (lectures: Hendrik Hartog, Stephen Macedo)
The rise of same-sex marriage has put the law's role in defining and regulating marriage at the center of public attention. This week's lectures and readings provide a historical and contemporary perspective on a changing institution.

Week Eleven. April 22 and 24. Institutional formation and restructuring: the case of health care
We explore the sources of institutional change through an exploration of two phases in the transformation of health care: the rise of the medical profession and related changes in health-care organization in late 19th and 20th centuries, and the contemporary institutional restructing of health insurance.

Week Twelve. Contemporary institutional change in a global context
Changes in institutions in one country do not take place in isolation from others. This is expecially true today as new institutional models and policy paradigms have diffused throughout the world. What's the relationship of American institutions to these new patterns?

Last modified: April 12, 2014.