GV316      Half Unit
Advanced Issues in Applied Political Theory

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Kai Spiekermann


This course is available on the BSc in History and Politics, BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics, BSc in Politics and Data Science, BSc in Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics and History, BSc in Politics and International Relations and BSc in Politics and Philosophy. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit. This course is not available to General Course students.

This course is capped at two groups.


A foundational course in contemporary political theory (such as GV262 or equivalent) is recommended.

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 2022-23, the focus on the course will be political-philosophical questions in the context of environmental change, especially climate change. The approach will be interdisciplinary and exploratory. While the focus is on normative-philosophical issues, we will also make use of positive-analytical and empirical literature. Some of the possible questions to be discussed are: 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?


This course provides a combination of classes and lectures totalling 25 hours in the Lent Term. There will be a reading week in LT Week 6.

Formative coursework

One short formative essay in the LT.

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 (2021-2) Sixth Assessment Report, Available at www.ipcc.ch.


Essay (100%, 3000 words) in the ST.

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2021/22: Unavailable

Average class size 2021/22: Unavailable

Capped 2021/22: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

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