Contemporary Political Theory

School: School of Government and Society
Department: Department of Political Science and International Studies

Final year module

Lecturer: Dr Richard North

This module examines at a number of important political problems from the perspective of political philosophy. At the heart of the module is the idea of justice and what it demands of us. The focus is largely institutional and so looks at what justice requires of our social and political institutions, but it we also look at what is required of political leaders and citizens. The module is split into four (loose parts). Part one focuses on social justice and considers the nature and purpose of justice, how we justify a particular conception of justice and the relationship between the state and its citizens. Part two looks at economic justice and asks how should we distribute economic resources. We consider a number of possible answers including the market, dessert and various egalitarian principles. In part three of the module we turn to political justice. Here we look a number of issues relating to the exercise of political power, including the idea of democracy, voting and representative and political obligation. Finally, in part four, we look at some examples of injustice and ask what should be done when justice is unlikely to be realized. In particular we look at issues relating to toleration, positive discrimination and punishment.

Learning outcomes

At the end of the module the student should be able to: 

  • Distinguish major theoretical perspectives on international politics and compare their value for the analysis of specific problems of international politics as well as their basic assumptions and the worldviews they generate.
  • Identify main actors in international politics and relate them to the contexts in which they operate.
  • Evaluate analyses of international politics from a theoretically grounded point of view.


  • Term Two: 1 essay x 3,000 word assessed work (50%)
  • Term Three: 3 hour examination (50%)

Related courses:

The optional modules listed on the website for this programme may unfortunately occasionally be subject to change. As you will appreciate key members of staff may leave the University and this necessitates a review of the modules that are offered. Where the module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you make other choices.