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The University of Southampton

PAIR3015 Contemporary Theories of Justice

Module Overview

The aim of this module is to familiarise you with several important, but competing, theories of justice,. Such theories give guidance on important questions of distributive justice (who ought to get what, when and why?), and provide, to varying degrees, grounds for the condemnation of real-world injustices. It also engages with important methodological debates about how we should theorise about justice, and what status the results of our reflection should be seen as having. On completing the module, you will be expected to have a good understanding of some important recent theories of justice, the various difficulties they face, and the contested methodological territories on which they are staked out.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

To develop students' understanding of a variety of leading views on the nature and demands of justice (and in particular distributive justice). To critically evaluate a series of theories of justice (typically including Rawlsian, left-libertarian, right-libertarian and socialist views, and others besides). To understand some of the implications of these theories for concrete issues such as taxation, redistribution, the role of the state, the relationship between justice and personal morality, and so on.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of a range of contemporary views on the nature and demands of justice
  • Assess written arguments
  • Produce detailed and considered normative arguments, in written form


The module discusses the contributions contemporary political theory has made to thinking about questions of distributive justice. Indicative issues might include: - Rawls’s theory of justice - Cohen’s critique of Rawls - Nozick and right-libertarianism - Dworkin and luck egalitarianism - Left-libertarianism - Marxism and the critique of exploitation - Iris Young on oppression

Learning and Teaching

Independent Study124
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

W. Kymlicka. Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction (Second Edition). 

M. Clayton and A. Williams (Eds.). Social Justice. 

J. Rawls. A Theory of Justice. 

C. Farrelly. An Introduction to Contemporary Political Theory. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2500 words) 60%
Essay  (1500 words) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (1500 words) 40%
Essay  (2500 words) 60%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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