Skip to main content Skip to navigation


PO301: Issues in Political Theory

The module is a core element of a number of degree programmes, including Politics and International Studies. The aim of the module is to foster a detailed critical understanding of a range of arguments in contemporary political philosophy, and the ability to criticise, evaluate, and apply these arguments. The module is divided into four parts:

  1. Contemporary theories and principles of justice (including the work of John Rawls, Robert Nozick, Ronald Dworkin, Elizabeth Anderson, Susan Moller Okin; theories of equality and distributive justice);
  2. Issues of justice relating to the organisation of the basic structure of society and social institutions (gender and justice; freedom and equality; cultural diversity; democracy and legitimacy)
  3. Contemporary social, and political issues in normative political theory (immigration, education and upbringing, homelessness and housing, unjust enrichment, resisting injustice)
  4. 'Extensions' of justice (non-human animals, future generations, climate change).

The aims of the module are threefold:

  • To foster a detailed critical understanding of a range of arguments central to contemporary analytical political philosophy.
  • To foster the ability to analyse and assess opposing arguments in political philosophy.
  • To foster appreciation of the relevance of arguments in political philosophy to contemporary political and social issues and the ability to apply arguments in political philosophy to a range of such issues.

PO921: Explanations in Social Science [note: this module is not running in 2020-21]

This is a core module for students on the MA/Diploma in Politics and also open to postgraduate students in cognisant programmes. The module explores philosophical and methodological arguments relevant to research in the social and political sciences, focusing on the nature and role of explanation. The module draws upon materials from various disciplines, including philosophy, politics, economics, psychology, anthropology and sociology. Special attention is given to research that draws together arguments from different social science disciplines. Topical debates (such as global inequality, gender inequality, evolutionary explanation, and suicide missions) are used to illustrate competing modes of explanation; and attention is given to both well-established debates and recent controversies in the philosophy of social science. Topics covered include: causal explanation vs. interpretation; functional explanation; rationalism and empiricism; pragmatism and paradigms; rational choice theory; international and environmental applications of game theory; evolutionary psychology; and gender relations. The core text used for the course is Martin Hollis's The Philosophy of Social Science (Colorado: Westview, 1994).