GV408      Half Unit
Contemporary Disputes about Justice

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Katrin Flikschuh CON6.08


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 likely be between Friday 25 September and Friday 9 October 2015, depending on the course. The exact deadline for applications will be confirmed at your programme induction.


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

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 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 to the way in which liberal advocates of global justice introduce and deal with issues of scope methodologically and substantively. The second part of the course considers non-Western perspectives on and relating to global normative thinking, focusing in particular on modern African philosophical thought. We shall consider the philosophical distance between Western liberal and modern African thinking on issues concerning society and the state, human rights, the global economic context, and specific institutional challenges faced by post-colonial societies. We shall ask whether there are or can be genuine points of contact between Western and modern African political thinking. 


20 hours of seminars in the MT.

There will be a reading week in week 6 of the MT 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; 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; Kwame Gyekye, Modernity and Tradition; David Velleman; Foundations for Relativism; Jonathan Lear, Radical Hope. Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation.


Essay (100%, 5000 words).

Student performance results

(2011/12 - 2013/14 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 17.1
Merit 69.7
Pass 11.8
Fail 1.3

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2014/15: 32

Average class size 2014/15: 15

Controlled access 2014/15: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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