POL40140 Theories of Global Justice

Academic Year 2023/2024

This course examines a number of topics and issues in international politics from a normative perspective. We will look at current theories on justice in international relations, international distributive justice, reparative justice, migration, national self-determination, and global institutions of justice. Students will be introduced to some of the most important concepts in international political theory including sovereignty, duties of assistance, humanitarian intervention, and human rights.

The various normative problems discussed will be related to actual international conflicts past and present. Examples that might be used for illustrating the relevance and application of theories of international political theory are debates like climate justice or just war theory. For this year the focus will be on climate justice.

The module will have the structure of a seminar and will be based on classroom debates. The students will be expected to have read the relevant texts in advance and participate in discussion.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this course you will be able to:
• explain some key concerns, concepts, debates, and theories on global justice (LO1)
• distinguish between the normative, conceptual, and empirical background assumptions of claims about global justice (LO2)
• explain the interaction of concerns regarding international, intergenerational, procedural, rectificatory etc. dimensions of justice in the context of climate change (LO3)
• identify the strengths and weaknesses of normative political theory arguments (LO4)
• develop informed arguments for taking one or another particular position on controversial issues regarding global justice (LO5)
Please note that L05 is the most important learning outcome and that the other learning outcomes serve as means to this end.

Indicative Module Content:

We will look at political responses to climate chaos from a normative perspective analysing principles that should guide our actions. Questions we will discuss are e.g. Do the industrialised states who contributed most to climate change owe compensation to the developing states who suffer most? Should green house gas emissions be distributed on a equal per capita basis? Or should they track how dependent people are on emissions for a decent life? Is the ability to help a strong enough reason to impose duties of justice? etc.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Autonomous Student Learning


Seminar (or Webinar)




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This module is designed to run as a seminar. There are no lectures. Rather, students are expected to prepare for the in-class discussions and exercises by the required readings and handouts.
Overall this seminar is focused on task-based learning - by discussing the different dimensions and theories of global justice, students are expected to develop their own questions as well as their own approaches for addressing them. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations
Learning Recommendations:

Basic familiarity with the methods and approaches in normative political theory is highly recommended.
Some background knowledge regarding theories of justice is helpful.
Fabre, C. (2007) Justice in a Changing World, Cambridge: Polity Press (320.011 FAB slc).
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).

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Assignment: Research design Week 6 n/a Graded No


Assignment: Peer review Week 8 n/a Graded No


Essay: 5000 words Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No


Multiple Choice Questionnaire (Short): Weekly quizzes on the theories, definitions, and insights discussed in the readings, handouts, and classes. Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Presentation: 3 minute presentation on proposed research puzzle Week 4 n/a Pass/Fail Grade Scale No



Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment
• Peer review activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Rubrics and guidelines inform about grading criteria for all written assignments. Feedback will be provided to students within 20 working days of the deadline for the assignment in accordance with university policy.

Name Role
Assoc Professor Iseult Honohan Lecturer / Co-Lecturer