POLS301-20S1 (C) Semester One 2020

Contemporary Political Theory

30 points

Start Date: Monday, 17 February 2020
End Date: Sunday, 21 June 2020
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Friday, 28 February 2020
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Friday, 29 May 2020


The study of politics focuses not only on how the political world operates, but also the normative question of how it ought to operate. Is redistribution of wealth justified? Do people have a right to what they earn in the market? Is equality of opportunity possible? Is it desirable? This course examines theories of distributive justice and their implications for economics and markets. Topics covered include: Utilitarianism; Rawls’s theory of justice; Dworkin’s equality of resources; Libertarianism; Universal basic income; Market socialism; Citizenship; and culture and politics.

Academic aims: To foster a detailed critical understanding of a range of arguments in contemporary political philosophy, and the ability to criticise, evaluate, explain (verbally and in writing), and apply these arguments.

Learning Outcomes

Learning objectives: By the end of the module, students should be able to comprehend and critically analyse complex arguments from contemporary political philosophy, to provide a critical account of them, and to construct and defend their own sustained arguments about major political values.

Learning methods: This course uses a flipped methodology, with an emphasis on learning through interpersonal communication. Students will work individually and within groups to create an understanding of the class readings; presenting their interpretations and ideas to each other, before presenting them to the class.  Participation in this work is compulsory. Seminars are an extremely important part of the module, and their value depends on students’ active participation in the discussion. This may involve group work and oral or written presentations to the rest of the class. Discussions in, and preparations for, seminars are essential for the understanding of the material in the lectures.

University Graduate Attributes

This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attributes specified below:

Critically competent in a core academic discipline of their award

Students know and can critically evaluate and, where applicable, apply this knowledge to topics/issues within their majoring subject.

Globally aware

Students will comprehend the influence of global conditions on their discipline and will be competent in engaging with global and multi-cultural contexts.


Any 30 points at 200 level from PHIL or POLS, or
any 60 points at 200 level from the Schedule V of the BA, or
the Schedule V of the BCom.


PHIL317, POLS351

Equivalent Courses


Assessment Due Date Percentage  Description
Essay Proposal 5% Proposal due end of week 5
Test 20% In the last class of term one, a 1 hour test
Participation 15% Weekly assignments and attendance
Essay 35%
Final Exam 25%

Textbooks / Resources

Required Texts

Zwolinski, Matt; Arguing about political philosophy ; 2nd edition;

Also recommended:

• Political Theory: Methods and Approaches, edited by David Leopold, and Marc Stears,
Oxford University Press USA,  2008. (ebook in library)
• Will Kymlicka; Contemporary Political Philosophy; 2nd; Oxford University Press, 2002.
• Gaus, Gerald F; Kukathas, Chandran. Handbook of Political Theory. London: SAGE Publications, 2004. (ebook in library)
• Colin Farrelly, Contemporary Political Theory: A Reader, SAGE Publications, 2003. (see sage for ebook).
• Dryzek, John, Bonnie Honig, and Anne Phillips, eds. 2006. The Oxford Handbook of Political Theory. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
• Goodin, Robert E., and Phillip Pettit, eds. 2006. Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Anthology. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
• Wolff, Jonathan. 2006. An Introduction to Political Philosophy. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Additional Course Outline Information

Where to submit and collect work

Essay boxes are located on the 5th floor Locke, outside the POLS office, Locke 501.

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $1,553.00

International fee $6,750.00

* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.

For further information see Language, Social and Political Sciences .

All POLS301 Occurrences

  • POLS301-20S1 (C) Semester One 2020