GV4H3      Half Unit
Feminist Political Theory

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Anne Phillips


This course is available on the MPhil/PhD in Gender, MSc in Gender, MSc in Gender (Research), MSc in Gender, Development and Globalisation, MSc in Gender, Policy and Inequalities and MSc in Political Theory. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course is capped at 2 groups. The deadline for applications is 17:00 on Tuesday 29 September 2020. You will be informed of the outcome by 17:00 on Wednesday 30 September 2020.

Course content

This course covers some of the central debates in contemporary feminist political theory, with a particular emphasis on the legacy and usefulness of liberalism. The course focuses on debates and differences within feminist political theory, rather than justifications for, or defences of, feminist political theory. Among the problems raised are conceptions of the individual and individual autonomy; the relative invisibility of gender issues in mainstream literature on justice and equality; the tendency to conceive of equality in sex-blind terms; the tendency to presume a universally applicable set of norms. We consider the theoretical debates in relation to a number of contemporary political issues. Topics likely to be addressed include: feminism and contract, individualism and autonomy, identity politics, equality and the politics of difference, marriage, multiculturalism, and universalism.


This course provides a combination of seminars and lectures totalling 20 hours in the MT. This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of online and on-campus lectures and seminars. There will be a reading week in MT Week 6.

Formative coursework

Students will be required to submit a short essay of roughly 1,500 words. Students will be given a list of questions to choose from, and should choose a topic other than the one they choose for their final assessment.

Indicative reading

Most of the material is in the form of articles, and a detailed list will be handed out at the beginning of the course. The following is only an indicative list: Carole Pateman (1988) The Sexual Contract; Iris M Young (1990) Justice and the Politics of Difference; Wendy Brown (1995) States of Injury; Anne Phillips (1995) The Politics of Presence; Clare Chambers (2017) Against Marriage: An Egalitarian Defence of the Marriage-Free State; Eleonore Lepinard (2011) 'Autonomy and the Crisis of the Feminist Subject: Revisiting Okin's Dilemma', Constellations 18/2:205-221.


Essay (100%, 4000 words).

The nature and value of the assessments will be the same whether a student receives teaching on campus or online.

Student performance results

(2016/17 - 2018/19 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 23.4
Merit 62.3
Pass 14.3
Fail 0

Teachers' comment

This course typically recruits students from both the MSc in Political Theory programme and MSc in Gender programmes; this provides a good mix of expertise from mainstream and feminist theory.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2019/20: 22

Average class size 2019/20: 11

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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