GV408      Half Unit
Contemporary Disputes about Justice

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Katrin Flikschuh CON6.08


This course is available on the MSc in Human Rights, MSc in Political Theory and MSc in Political Theory (Research). This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

The course offers a critical analysis of some of the debates about distributive justice following the publication of John Rawls' A Theory of Justice in 1971. The focus is a) on Rawlsian and post-Rawlsian methods of normative justifications in relation to distributive justice in general, and b) on the problematic extension of Rawls' domestic theory of justice to the global domain. The course begins with an overview of Rawls' theory of justice and goes on to consider some initial responses to it. However, primary focus will be on Rawlsian and post-Rawlsian global justice. Particular attention will be paid to the way in which liberal advocates of global justice introduce and deal with issues of scope methodologically and substantively. We shall consider attempted early extensions of the Rawlsian difference principle to the global domain and ensuing wider global justice debates, including human rights and arguments for humanitarian intervention. We shall ask whether scope-related issues affect the very way in which we conceive of justice, or whether they merely pose new substantive problems that can, in principle, be solved by means of the contractarian framework developed by Rawls in relation to the liberal domestic political context.


20 hours of seminars in the MT.

Formative coursework

All students are expected to submit two non-assessed essays which will be marked and commented on but which do not count towards formal assessment of this course.

Indicative reading

J. Rawls, A Theory of Justice, R. Nozick, Anarchy, State and Utopia, R. Dworkin, Sovereign Virtue, Thomas Scanlon, What we owe to each other; Charles Beitz, Political Theory and International Relations, Thomas Pogge, World Poverty and Human Right; Onora O'Neill, Bounds of Justice; Charles Beitz, The Idea of Human Rights; Kwasi Wiredu, Cultural Universals and Particulars. An African Perspective; Michael Jackson, Life Within Limits. Well-Being in a World of Want.


Essay (100%, 6000 words) in the ST.

One 6,000 word essay submitted at the end of week 6 of the ST (100%)

Student performance results

(2009/10 - 2011/12 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 22.1
Merit 55.8
Pass 22.1
Fail 0

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2012/13: 27

Average class size 2012/13: 13

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills