GV316      Half Unit
Advanced Issues in Applied Political Theory

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Kai Spiekermann CON.517


This course is available on the BSc in Government, BSc in Government and Economics, BSc in Government and History, BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics and International Relations and BSc in Politics and Philosophy. This course is not available as an outside option nor to General Course students.


This course is capped at one group. The deadline for enrolments is 12:00 noon, Friday 29 September 2017.

Course content

An investigation of contemporary questions in applied political theory. Taking as a starting point a pressing social and political challenge, the course instructs students to systematically apply different political theories to approach the problem, to understand and critically discuss different normative viewpoints, and to develop and defend their own position in these debates.

Examples of such themes include environmental and climate change, free speech, multiculturalism and toleration, poverty and global justice, colonialism, or surveillance and privacy. The topics are selected each year to reflect current debates and the interests of the course convener. The course gives students the opportunity to experience research-led teaching, as the course convener will typically create a syllabus to reflect their current research projects.

In 2017/18, this course applies theories and concepts from political theory to the problems of environmental change. Among the topics discussed will be climate change, overpopulation, food and water scarcity, deforestation, desertification and the loss of biodiversity. Looking at contributions from political theorists, we will ask: How should we balance the interests of current and future generations? How does climate change affect our obligations towards the global poor? How do we make policy decisions if the effects are uncertain but potentially severe? Are we individually or collectively responsible for causing climate change, and what follows from this? How do we relate to the environment and what precisely is valuable about preserving it?


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the LT.

During the reading week (week 6), all students have the opportunity for a one-on-one meeting with the convener to plan for their formative essay.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay.

Indicative reading

John Broome (2012) Climate Matters: Ethics in a Warming World, New York (W.W. Norton);

Stephen Gardiner, Simon Caney, Dale Jamieson and Henry Shue, eds. (2010) Climate Ethics: Essential Readings, Oxford (Oxford University Press);

Denis G. Arnold, ed. (2011) The ethics of global climate change, Cambridge (Cambridge University Press);

Stephen M. Gardiner (2011) A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change, Oxford (OUP);

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2013) Fifth Assessment Report, Available at www.ipcc.ch.


Essay (100%, 3000 words).

Student performance results

(2015/16 - 2016/17 combined)

Classification % of students
First 28.6
2:1 52.4
2:2 14.3
Third 4.8
Fail 0

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2016/17: 14

Average class size 2016/17: 16

Capped 2016/17: Yes (14)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

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

Course survey results

(2015/16 - 2016/17 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 47%



Reading list (Q2.1)


Materials (Q2.3)


Course satisfied (Q2.4)


Lectures (Q2.5)


Integration (Q2.6)


Contact (Q2.7)


Feedback (Q2.8)


Recommend (Q2.9)