WWS 333/SOC 326 Spring 2018

Law, Institutions, and Public Policy

Paul Starr


See also Course Information (instructors, requirements, assignments)

Where to find the readings: = E-reserves; = Blackboard course materials; = click on link;
= Stokes Library 3 hour reserve; also available for purchase at Labyrinth.

Week One. February 5 and 7. Introduction: the variety of institutions .
The first week of the course will lay out three cases aimed at illustrating 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 12 and 14: What are institutions, and why do they matter? Institutional analysis and law.
This week examines different approaches to institutional analysis and institutional change and to law and its relation to other institutions.

Week Three. February 19 and 21. Political institutions: state-building, the nation-state, constitutionalism, legal systems.
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 26 and February 28. Democracy, law, and rights
We now take up questions about the institutional framework of democracy: What are the primary types of institutional design and what are their consequences? What role does law play in regulating democracy? And what is the relation of government to individual rights?

Weeks Five and Six. March 5 and 7. Legal institutions
We turn to the institutions that shape the legal process, focusing on courts, judges, and judicial review.

March 14. Midterm exam.


Week Seven. March 26 and 28. Institutions and economic growth
This week, drawing on comparative and historical evidence, we consider how institutions, especially those created through politics and law, may affect economic growth, and how economic growth may affect institutions. An additional focus is the effect of differences in family structure and female agency..

Week Eight. April 2 and 4: Institutions and innovation
Continuing our discussion of institutions and economic growth, we turn to the problems of intellectual property and innovation and specifically to biomedical innovation today.

Week Nine. April 9 and 11. Institutional change and inequality today
How should we understand the institutional shift toward market-oriented policies and changes in employment associated with increasing inequality and insecurity?

Week Ten. April 16 and 18. The struggle over health care
We focus on the century-long battle over health insurance and health care in the United States and current dilemmas about health-care law and policy.

Week Eleven. April 23 and 25. Civil society, religion, and politics
This week we consider how institutional change in civil society has affected political advocacy, and the relation between religion and the law.

Week Twelve. April 30 and May 2. Democracy at risk
The rise of populist nationalism is shaking the foundations of democracy in Europe and the United States. We turn now to the current crisis of liberal democracy and examine the old question of American exceptionalism in light of contemporary developments.

Last modified: April 10, 2018.