POL20060 Law, Politics, and Human Rights

Academic Year 2022/2023

This module examines the moral foundations of law, politics and human rights. We also examine the normative questions relating the interaction of law, politics, and human rights which may include whether human rights should be considered as limits for democratic decisions, whether there should be a human right to democracy, etc. Special attention is given to the theoretical bases for granting people rights. Some of the questions the module will address are: What is it to have a moral right? How can human rights be justified? How can we deal with situations where rights clash? Should basic rights be protected by constitutions? Under what circumstances may human rights be restricted?

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On successful completion of this course, students should be able to
• explain the implications of the dual nature of human rights as moral and legal rights
• identify the strengths and weaknesses of different conceptual theories of rights
• identify the strengths and weaknesses of different justifications of human rights
• develop informed arguments for taking one or another particular position on controversial human rights issues

Indicative Module Content:

Philosophical rights theory
Analysing human rights from a conceptual perspective.
Discussing the morality of human rights and democracy.
The morality of a politics of human rights.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Lectures with some in-class exercises. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations
Learning Recommendations:

Some familiarity with normative political theory (e.g. INRL 10010 Foundations of Political Theory and International Relations) would be helpful but is not essential.

Students interested in third level political theory modules (e.g. INRL 30010 International Justice or POL 30370 Justice in Education) should either take this module or POL 20010 Individuals and the State as prerequisite for their future studies.

The following texts are great introductions into political theory:
McKinnon, C. (ed.) (2015). Issues in Political Theory, Oxford: Oxford University Press (320.01 MCK).
Swift, A. (2013) Political Philosophy. A Beginners' Guide for Students and Politicians, Third Edition. Revised and Expanded ed, Cambridge: Polity Press (320.01 SWI).

The following texts are great introductions to the philosophy of human rights:
Cruft, R., Liao, S. M. and Renzo, M. (eds.). (2015). Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Jones, P. (1994) Rights, Basingstoke / Hampshire: Palgrave (323 JON slc).
Woods, K. (2014) Human Rights, London: Palgrave MacMillan (341.481 WOO slc).

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Continuous Assessment: Essay due at the end of week 8. 1500 words. Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Examination: Examination held in the end of trimester exam period. 2 hour End of Trimester Exam No Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn Yes - 2 Hour
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Feedback will be provided to students within 20 working days of the deadline for the assignment in according with university policy.