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Justice, Democracy and Citizenship (PO134)

Justice, Democracy and Citizenship is designed to get you thinking – about ideas in politics and how they matter, and what happens when we put political theory to work on pressing real-world issues and dilemmas. We will explore the three core concepts through debates including justice and private education, democracy and the Occupy movement, and citizenship and obligations to obey the law. We welcome all students, not only those considering a focus on political theory in later years.

Programme content

This module interrogates political theory in the world, focusing sharply on crucial concepts and case studies that help to bring them alive. It will be divided into three parts – on justice, democracy, and citizenship respectively – each consisting of three weeks of lectures and seminars. The module has been created as a lively way to explore key ideas in political theory: what the main arguments around them are, and how they might apply to and illuminate practical and policy dilemmas. After taking this course you will greet invocations of justice, democracy and citizenship with a new curiosity and a sharpened critical eye.

The opening sessions on Justice will look at competing definitions of this high contested term. Subsequent sessions will look at the issue of intergenerational justice - for example, how strong are our obligations to mitigate climate change? - and our obligations to other people, through the lens of justice."

The sessions on Democracy will ask if this (again much-disputed) concept has any core meaning (could it just be a term of rhetoric?). We will then explore two cases that challenge common ideas of democracy: the radical democratic alternatives which many in the Occupy movement claim to offer, and the notion that an unelected group like Oxfam could be democratically representative.

What is citizenship, and what are the special demands on us (if any) that come with the status of citizen? The final three sessions explore these questions. The vehicles for this work will be, first, to ask ourselves the fundamental question ‘do we have an obligation to obey the law’? Could citizens sometime be obliged to break the law? And second, the topical question of multiculturalism and integration will be examined: for example, do we all have a duty to integrate?



This module is worth 15 CATS.