Contemporary Political Philosophy - POL00004I

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  • Department: Politics
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Alfred Moore
  • Credit value: 30 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2019-20 to Summer Term 2019-20

Module aims

For all their variety, most political systems in the global north can be characterised as liberal democracies, electing their leaders according to one-person-one-vote, and upholding political rights of association and participation, a free and independent press, rule of law and protection of property, and more. A normative commitment to these practices is even more widespread; few regimes advertise themselves as illiberal and even fewer reject the claim that they are democratic in some sense. Liberal democracy today is often thought to be under threat from both internal crises of confidence and external pressures. Yet there is great confusion over what liberal democracy means, and there are important differences in the ways that the concepts of liberty and democracy have been understood, and in the ways, they might be thought to come together or pull apart. Also, there are legitimate questions about whether liberal democracy is really up to all the challenges governments must handle.

The course is structured into two parts. The first part of this course, in the Autumn term, will focus on theories of democracy, asking: Is the ‘will of the people’ meaningless? If not, how might we come to know it (or create it)? Why should we prefer majority rule to alternative decision procedures? Is individual freedom consistent with democracy? Who should be included within democratic decisions, and who should be excluded? When - if ever - should judges overrule elected politicians? We will focus on contemporary philosophical arguments around democracy but anchor them in a range of contemporary and historical examples, including the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU.

The second part of the course, in the Spring term, will address contemporary liberalism, starting with the classic work of John Rawls but then turning to authors probing the limits of liberal approaches.  Is the stress placed by liberal philosophers on the redistribution of resources excessive, or is it insufficient? Does liberal theory actually realise its ambition to be inclusive of all groups in society? We will examine these and other questions with reference to concrete issues of justice surrounding social class, gender, race, disability, and multiculturalism.

Module learning outcomes

  • To develop in students a critical understanding of approaches to and problems in contemporary political philosophy;
  • To develop students' analytical, argumentative and communicative skills;
  • To develop a critical understanding of approaches to and problems in contemporary political philosophy;
  • To develop an ability to advance and analyse arguments in political philosophy.

Assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
2000 word essay
N/A 40
University - closed examination
Contemporary Political Philosophy
2 hours 60

Special assessment rules

None

Reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
2000 word essay
N/A 40
University - closed examination
Contemporary Political Philosophy
2 hours 60

Module feedback

Students will receive written timely feedback on their formative assessment. They will also have the opportunity to discuss their feedback during the module tutor’s feedback and guidance hours.

Students will receive written feedback on their summative assessment no later than 20 working days after submission; and the module tutor will hold a specific session to discuss feedback, which students can also opt to attend. They will also have the opportunity to discuss their feedback during the module tutor’s regular feedback and guidance hours.

Indicative reading

David Estlund (ed.) Democracy (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002).

Will Kymlicka, Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).

John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971/revised edition 1999).



The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.