GV408      Half Unit
Contemporary Disputes about Justice

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Mr David Axelsen


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


This course is capped at two groups.The deadline for receipt of applications will be 12 noon,  Monday, 3 October 2016. You will be informed of the outcome by 12 noon, Wednesday, 5 October 2016.


None, though some previous exposure to normative political theory may be an advantage

Course content

The course offers a critical analysis of key debates about distributive justice which have followed the publication of John Rawls' A Theory of Justice in 1971. The first part of the course focuses on Rawlsian and post-Rawlsian methods of normative justifications in relation to (distributive) justice in general and on the problematic extension of Rawls' domestic theory of justice to the global domain. Particular attention will be paid in which issues of global justice introduce new methodological and substantive issues into normative theorizing and how these have been dealt with. The second part of the course delves into more specific issues concerning possible obligations of justice arising from global inequality and poverty. For example, we shall discuss whether and the extent to which there are universal values - and analyse the theoretical arguments for and against having such values institutionalized in the form of human rights. We shall consider the extent to which collective solidarity is limited to (and constrained by) nation-states, and how feelings of solidarity can be said to bear on obligations across borders. And we shall ask whether relations of trade, (colonial) history, cultural and linguistic similarity, and/or geographical proximity influence such obligations. 



20 hours of seminars in the LT.

There will be a reading week in week 6 of the LT for private study and formative/summative assessment preparation.

Formative coursework

All students are expected to submit one non-assessed essay of up to 2500 words, which will be marked and commented on but does not count towards formal assessment of this course.

Indicative reading

J. Rawls, A Theory of Justice; Charles Beitz, Political Theory and International Relations; Thomas Pogge, World Poverty and Human Rights; Lea Ypi, Global Justice & The Political Avant-Garde; Charles Beitz, The Idea of Human Rights; David Miller, National Responsibility & Global Justice; Martha Nussbaum, Women & Human Development; Kwasi Wiredu, Cultural Universals and Particulars: An African Perspective; Laura Valentini, Justice in a Globalized World; Gilian Brock, Global Justice: A Cosmopolitan Account.


Essay (100%, 5000 words).

Student performance results

(2012/13 - 2014/15 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 20
Merit 70
Pass 7.5
Fail 2.5

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2015/16: 28

Average class size 2015/16: 14

Controlled access 2015/16: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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