Undergraduate Modules

Political Theory in Practice

The discipline of Politics is not solely devoted to explaining how political institutions, structures and processes work, but also to imagine how they could, should and might work. Indeed, one of the central concerns of normative political theory is to imagine what a fairer and more just political system would look like; to ask what institutions would comprise it, and which policies it would pursue.

This module engages students with these questions by addressing a series of ideas which have received attention from political theorists for centuries – but which help us tackle urgent political problems faced by all contemporary political communities.

For example, the course begins by engaging with the idea of ‘political obligation’, and asks under what conditions, if any, it can be permissible to disobey the laws of the state. It addresses the concept of ‘distributive justice’, and asks whether equal opportunity requires some individuals to benefit from ‘affirmative action’. The course also tackles the concept of ‘rights’, asking whether in multicultural societies, minority groups merit different entitlements to the rest of the community. It also engages with the notion of ‘toleration’, exploring to what extent offensive and dangerous viewpoints should be permitted in a liberal democracy. Finally the course addresses ‘citizenship’, and asks whether this political status grants individuals the right to exclude outsiders from their territory.


The topics covered on this module include:

  1. 1. Political obligation
  2. 2. Civil disobedience
  3. 3. Distributive justice
  4. 4. Affirmative action
  5. 5. Rights
  6. 6. Multiculturalism and minority rights
  7. 7. Toleration
  8. 8. Expression and offence
  9. 9. Citizenship
  10. 10. Migration and open borders

Second Year | Spring Semester
Module Code: POL234