Faculty Brief: Steve Zipperstein

Steve Zipperstein joined the faculty of the Global Studies program after an accomplished career as a lawyer. (Photo courtesy of Prof. Zipperstein.)

Faculty Brief: Steve Zipperstein

Steve Zipperstein brings the expertise of a seasoned legal practitioner to his courses on globalization for the Institute's Global Studies program.

Academic Program: Global Studies Program

Courses: The Backlash against Globalization
Global Business and Law



Steve Zipperstein has been teaching for the International Institute’s Global Studies Program for three years, where he has rapidly become a student favorite — including among “senior scholars” (retirees who audit UCLA courses).

A double alumnus of the University of California, Zipperstein earned a B.A. in political science from UCLA (1979) and a J.D. from UC Davis (1983). He had an accomplished career in law that included work as a federal prosecutor and chief legal officer for Blackberry and Verizon Wireless, but has since shifted to teaching, research and writing.

A senior fellow at the UCLA Center for Middle East Development (CMED), Zipperstein also teaches at the Luskin School of Public Affairs, UC Santa Barbara and the Tel Aviv University School of Law.

His first book, “Law and the Arab–Israeli Conflict: The Trials of Palestine” (Routledge), was published last year.*

What do you enjoy about teaching Global Studies students and how do you motivate them?

Zipperstein: I love the enthusiasm, engagement and the wonder I see in their expressions. UCLA students are serious and studious.

I grade students partly by participation, but I give them many options. They can either speak in class, send me emails with questions about the readings or relevant topics, or make a presentation to the class on Zoom.

I want my courses to be as academically rigorous and intellectually interesting as possible. I try to introduce students to a wide range of topics, and find that they latch on to the subject areas that interest them. They write three papers during the quarter, two short and one long. I tell them I want to see good scholarship, but to have fun and write the paper they have always wanted to write.

I cannot speak highly enough about the amazing work my students have done on subjects such as COVID-19, the murder of George Floyd, the 2020 election and, most recently, the insurrection of January 6th.

Last year, one of my students, Yuling Wang (UCLA 2021), wrote an amazing term paper about information privacy in China that won the UCLA Library undergraduate prize for research. I was so proud of her.

Can you tell us a little bit about the Global Business and Law course?

Zipperstein: This course addresses a variety of legal and business issues that have arisen in different places around the world, both in the modern era as a whole and during the 20th and 21st centuries.

We cover core concepts of privacy, law and policy, including the tension between encrypted forms of communication and the prevention of terrorism. Additional topics include U.S. law enforcement cooperation with other governments; corporate social responsibility; and the financial crises of the late 1980s and 2009, which produced financial crashes in Iceland, Greece and Spain.

I use my personal experience as a jumping off point for an academic exploration of wider issues. In a recent class on doing business in Latin America, for example, I spent about five minutes describing a criminal case that I tried in Argentina, which served as a lead-in for a discussion of dueling and honor in 19th-century in Argentina, the subsequent ban of the practice and the substitution of private criminal cases for dueling.

Can you describe The Backlash against Globalization course?

Zipperstein: This course examines the recent backlash against globalization, which I trace to the Seattle protests against the World Trade Organization 1999. Over the last decade, we've seen a rise in nationalism and authoritarianism around the world as part of this backlash. The class looks at a broad range of areas of the world, both horizontally and vertically, and explores issues relating to globalization and women, globalization and the labor force and globalization and the environment, among others.

I want to give a shout out here to the chair of the Global Studies program, Prof. Mike Thies, for helping me transform what was originally a senior seminar course (with an intensive reading list) into a lecture course designed to be not only user friendly, but also pedagogically effective.

The theme of the course is that the neoliberalism that underlines modern-day globalization presents extraordinarily complex and nuanced issues. Globalization has created opportunities, but has also produced enormous wealth gaps and environmental degradation, harm to women and children and violence and exploitation.

I want students to understand these issues from the perspectives of different countries and different global actors, and to ponder a future model of globalization.

For example, we read one article by an Ethiopian professor who argues that the Paris Climate Accord represents a neocolonial attempt to put the brakes on the industrialization process in the global South by imposing Western values about climate change. Initially, students are shocked by the argument, but then they begin to understand his perspective. In fact, globalization and climate change is the most popular topic for student research papers in this class.

*See review in Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, December 2020.

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Published: Wednesday, February 10, 2021

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