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Unit information: Global Justice in 2020/21

Unit name Global Justice
Unit code POLI20010
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Mr. Tim Fowler
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


Debates surrounding issues of global justice are at the centre of political theory, international relations scholarship and political practice. This unit aims to explore key debates concerning the scope of justice, the validity of thinking about justice and human rights at the global level, and the application of global justice arguments to key problems threatening global cohabitation. The course is divided into two parts. Part One (weeks 1-5) provides a conceptual foundation for the unit, exploring the roots of global justice, key proponents of the approach, fundamental questions shaping the practice of global justice, as well as criticisms of the notion of global justice and ethics. Based on this foundation, Part Two (weeks 6-10) of the course explores the conceptual issues framing global justice and human rights within the context of specific empirical case studies, examining key global problems, including poverty, gender inequality and rights, labour rights, post-conflict/transitional justice, refugees and humanitarian intervention.

Unit Aims

By the end of the unit, students will have a critical understanding of the global justice debate, a contextual understanding of key philosophical and practical issues within these debates as well as demonstrable in depth knowledge of a number of urgent global cohabitation problems. Students will gain cognitive, communicative and transferable skills, including the ability to evaluate advanced concepts, arguments and theories, to employ both primary and secondary sources, to present reasoned and effective arguments in written and oral form, to pursue independent learning and to show critical judgement.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an appreciation of the relevance of global justice scholarship for assessing global political problems.
  • Critically engage with the work of leading political philosophers.
  • Understand key philosophical and practical problems within global justice scholarship.
  • Draw on knowledge of key global cohabitation problems.

Teaching details

The unit will be taught through blended learning methods, including a mix of synchronous and asynchronous teaching activities

Assessment Details

Essay 1: 1,500 words (25%)

Essay 2: 2,500 words (75%)

Both assessments test all learning outcomes listed above.

Reading and References

Beitz, C. ‘Justice and International Relations,’ Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 4(4), (1975): 360-389.

Brock, G. Global Justice: A Cosmopolitan Account (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010). This book provides excellent summaries and clear arguments related to many of the themes found within this unit. An electronic copy is already available through the library.

Brown, G.W., Held, D. The Cosmopolitanism Reader (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2010). Many of the readings for this course are collected in this reader.

Caney, S. ‘Global Distributive Justice and the State,’ Political Studies, Vol. 56(3), (2008): 487–518.

Tan, C.K. Justice Without Borders (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).