The University of Southampton

LAWS3138 Theories of Law and Justice

Module Overview

The first part of the module will canvass what is unique about legal obligation, about law’s claim to authority and about legal reasoning. The practice of law will be looked at and reflected upon. In the second part of the module we you will look at theories of justice and the tension they pose between individuality and community. The module will be taught in holistic way, so that theories of law and theories and justice can be seen in the way they relate and complement one another to reflect both justification and limits for good governance. As a prospective lawyer, it is believed that significantly better and more sophisticated legal argument can be formed once theories of precedent in law and statutory interpretation can be seen in the way they relate to theories of law and justice. As such this module will deeply inform your doctrinal study of law with the conceptual analysis which underpins law’s search for justice.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

This module will provide you with a developed understanding of what is law; how much law can be justified; how law relates to morality and justice, indeed whether there is any morality that is unique to law.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The nature of law and legal reasoning and to appreciate the challenges facing both.
  • The connection between conceptual understanding of law and its practice.
  • A wide range of liberal, libertarian and communitarian theories of justice and their relationship to justified and limited governance.
  • The full scope of challenges posed by the notion of difference, especially cultural difference, in reflection upon justice and law.
  • The tension and complementarities that exists between the limit and justification of law, the nature of law, and living in a just, democratic society.
  • The connection between conceptual inquiry and the formation of original argument in law.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Analyse, interpret and evaluate particularly complex material;
  • Capably apply knowledge to solve a wide range practical problems;
  • Formulate an effective, reasoned and structured argument in depth;
  • Communicate very lucidly and present written arguments supported by the full scope of appropriate evidence.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a thorough knowledge and critical understanding of jurisprudential concerns and adeptly provide the linkage to the formation and defence of legal argument.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Form a comprehensive independent argument about the nature of law and its relationship with morality and to back it up thoroughly with examples from legal and constitutional doctrine.
  • Interact critically and skilfully with materials in political and legal theory concerning theories of justice, individuality, community, culture and difference relating it to current social problems and political conflicts.
  • Adeptly conduct independent research concerning particular issues arising from understanding of law and its relationship to justice.
  • Perceptively and comprehensively link theoretical insights to the formation and defence of original legal argument.


The module will consider key texts in analytical jurisprudence in depth e.g. legal positivism, law as interpretation and the authority of law. The second part will discuss key theories of normative jurisprudence and justice including liberal, libertarian and communitarian theories drawing particular attention to the relationship between the right and the good, understanding of freedom and the nature of morality.

Special Features


Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching will be by one, two-hour seminar per week. The two-hour seminars are intended as occasions for detailed discussion of specific topics within the broader areas covered and you are expected to come fully prepared. Reading and questions for preparation will be placed on Blackboard in advance of each tutorial. Seminars are also occasions for you to raise problems and questions and to obtain feedback on your progress. Teaching methods include - Small group seminar work focused on problem solving skills and development of reasoned argument. - Advance study is required for the tutorials and active participation required by all members of the group. Attendance at lectures will develop a general overview of key concerns around a topic. Preparation for Tutorials will develop - Knowledge of the substantive principles of specific topics in jurisprudence and political theory. - Ability to manage and access diverse range of sources of law, especially statutory material and case law, many on-line; - Ability to critically evaluate those sources and participate constructively in oral discussions concerning them; - Ability to structure and express thoughts in logically coherent way; - Ability to apply those materials to problem solving exercises; - Time management and research skills. Learning activities include - Directed reading assisted by reading lists and availability of materials on Blackboard; - Accessing electronic resources in the form of legislation, journals and case materials; - Reviewing and evaluating complex material; - Formulating and presenting in oral and written form reasoned and structured arguments through formative tutorial activities and assessment.

Preparation for scheduled sessions126
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Hart H. L. A. The Concept of Law; Essays on Bentham. 

Raz J.. The Authority of Law; Practical Reasons and Norms; The Morality of Freedom. 

Berlin I.. Two Concepts of Liberty' in Four Essays on Liberty. 

Nozick R.. Anarchy, State and Utopia. 

Rawls J.. A Theory of Justice; Political Liberalism. 

Mulhall S. & Swift A.. Liberals and Communitarians. 

Dworkin R.. Taking Rights Seriously; Law's Empire. 

Walzer M.. Spheres of Justice. 

Young I. M.. Justice and the Politics of Difference. 





MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

Some recommended texts for this module may be available in limited supply in the University Library. There might be a key textbook such as S. Mulhall and A. Swift, Liberals and Communitarians in the module which student may wish to purchase (approx. £30-40)

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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