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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Politics

Undergraduate Course: What's Wrong with Inequality? (PLIT10110)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryWhat is wrong with inequality? Inequality is increasing in many parts of the globe. Politicians and economists are increasingly aware that inequality produces political and economic challenges. Yet inequality is also a moral matter. This course concentrates on understanding the moral considerations at the heart of our concern with equality and inequality. It introduces students to the most important contributions in recent moral and political philosophy on egalitarianism and emerging challenges in the struggle for equality. Students will be equipped with a comprehensive understanding of the central moral issues regarding equality and inequality. Who should we consider as equals? Should our concern with equality focus on distributing society's goods equally, or promoting egalitarian attitudes such as respect? Should we prioritise improving the condition of the worst-off, or ensure everyone has identical shares of society's goods? We will also consider radical critiques of the dominant egalitarian discourses, and explore how issues such as gender, race, and colonialism should affect our understanding of equality. This course will be particularly complementary to students taking Social Inequality and the Life Course (SCPL10020) as it will consider many of the fundamental moral and theoretical questions that inform our empirical investigation of social inequality.
Course description This course aims to introduce students to central debates in moral and political philosophy regarding equality. The goal is both to explore the important arguments regarding key issues in egalitarianism and also offer students opportunity to critique these from a range of alternative perspectives (such as critiques of egalitarianism from gender, race, and post-colonial theory). The course will be broadly structured according to the four main axes of debate in egalitarianism:
Equality for whom? Who should be included in our egalitarian concern? What are the boundaries of inclusion as a subject of equality?
Equality of what? What should egalitarians seek to distribute equally? Should egalitarianism focus on patterns of distributions or qualities of relations such as respect?
Equality how? What principles express egalitarianism best: prioritising the worst off, allowing inequalities above a minimum threshold, or enforcing identical distributions of society's goods?
Equality where? Should egalitarian reforms concentrate on individuals and their ethos, social institutions, or social groups? Is egalitarianism able to respond to claims of liberation and emancipation, and critiques from post-colonial, gender, and race perspectives?
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 4 Politics/International Relations courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2017/18, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  30
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 4, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 172 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Critical Reasoning Exercise: 1,500 words 30%
Assessed Essay: 3,000 words 70%
Feedback The 'Critical Reasoning Exercise' is designed to be formative for the assessed essay. Individual written feedback will be provided to students and cohort feedback on the assessment as a whole. This will be provided within 15 working days of submission.

The main purpose of the 'Critical Reasoning Exercise' is to provide students with a structured opportunity to develop the skills and content central to doing well in the assessed essay, namely: developing a logical and critical argument in response to the course material. Thus the performance of this task and feedback provided will form a significant formative learning experience.

Additionally, following best practice around assessment literacy, each tutorial session will include dedicated activities supporting completion of the two elements of summative assessment with tutor-led and peer-feedback provided on these activities. This will include practice activities based on short exercises relating to the summative assessment tasks (e.g. presentation of thesis, refutation of criticism etc.)
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Present written and verbal analysis of arguments regarding equality in a clear, logical, and lucid form
  2. Identify accurately the main theoretical positions in debates on equality
  3. Compare and contrast a range of alternative arguments regarding the nature and value of equality
  4. Develop critical evaluations of arguments regarding equality examined in the course
  5. Apply relevant theoretical positions regarding equality to salient examples of social equality/inequality and reflect critically and independently on the most appropriate response to the moral problems of equality and inequality
Reading List
Anderson, Elizabeth, 1999, "What Is the Point of Equality?", Ethics 109, pp. 287-337.

Arneson, Richard J., 1989, "Equality and Equal Opportunity for Welfare" Philosophical Studies 56, pp. 77-93

Carter, Ian, 2011, "Respect and the Basis of Equality" Ethics (121), 538-571.

Clayton, Matthew and Andrew Williams (eds.), 2000, The Ideal of Equality, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan, and New York: St. Martin's Press

Cohen, G. A., 2000, If You're an Egalitarian, How Come You're So Rich?, Cambridge: MA: Harvard University Press.

Daniels, Norman, 1990, "Equality of What? Welfare, Resources, or Capabilities?", Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 50 (supp. vol.), pp. 273-296.

Dworkin, Ronald, 2000, Sovereign Virtue: Equality in Theory and Practice, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Frankfurt, Harry, 2000, "The Moral Irrelevance of Equality," Public Affairs Quarterly 14, pp. 87-103
Held, Virginia (ed.), 1995. Justice and Care: Essential Readings in Feminist Ethics, Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
McKerlie, Dennis, 2001, "Justice Between the Young and the Old," Philosophy and Public Affairs 30, pp. 152-177.

McMahan, Jeff, 1996, "Cognitive Disability, Misfortune, and Justice," Philosophy and Public Affairs 25, pp. 3-34.

Mills, Charles, 2003, From Class to Race: Essays in White Marxism and Black Radicalism, Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield

Nussbaum, Martha, 2003, "Capabilities and Functional Entitlements: Sen and Social Justice". Feminist Economics, 9 (2-3): 33-59.

Parfit, Derek, 1997, "Equality and Priority," Ratio 10, pp. 202-221

Sen, Amartya, "Equality of What?", in S. McMurrin (ed.), The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, vol. 1, 1980, Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, reprinted in Sen, 1982, Choice, Welfare and Measurement, Cambridge: MIT Press, pp. 353-369.

Wolff, Jonathan, 1998, "Fairness, Respect, and the Egalitarian Ethos," Philosophy and Public Affairs 27, pp. 97-122.

Young, Iris Marion, 1990, Justice and the Politics of Difference, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Mindsets
Enquiry and lifelong learning
This course provides structured support for combining theoretical and applied analysis of a central social problem: inequality. The emphasis on developing skills of "application" will support students in their ability to bring a critical approach to issues of social equality whatever their future personal and career choices. This approach is informed by David Boud's "Sustainable Assessment" approach where the goal of assessment is in part to promote life-long, sustained learning by the student.

Aspiration and personal development
The pedagogy of this course is strongly informed by Carol Dweck's research into "Growth Mindsets" which are shown to strongly correlate to higher attainment, positive personal development, and greater internal motivation. These are all attributes supported by the skills strand throughout this course and the "Critical Reasoning Exercise" assessment)

Outlook and engagement
This course will embody the principles that social problems such as equality/inequality require sophisticated moral reasoning in addition to sound empirical understanding. The emphasis on normative reasoning skills, and also the inclusion of radical critiques in the syllabus, will emphasise to students the importance of regarding social problems as challenges that demand an informed and principled reform, rather than immutable phenomena susceptible only to description and explanation.

Research and enquiry
A primary goal of the aligned LO's and assessment is to promote the keys skills of analytical reasoning. Analytical political philosophy is characterized by demanding standards of conceptual and logical analysis of social problems. Though this course will include a wide range of "methodological" approaches, the central body of literature is analytical in form and so the embedded study skills and assessment (especially the "Critical Reasoning Exercise") support developing students' skills in this mode or reasoning.

Personal and intellectual autonomy
The highest-level learning outcome (Reflect critically and Independently...) requires students to develop their own analysis of issues around equality and inequality. Students will be introduced to "independent analysis" skills, where they develop original criticisms/justifications of others' arguments, and will be encouraged to think creatively as they develop original responses to the literature considered. This will promote their general ability to reason individually, independently, and creatively.

The course will provide an opportunity to consider effective communication, especially as an associated quality of clear and rigorous analytical reasoning. We will study exemplars of excellent academic prose, and I will provide a range of resources to support students' writing skills, informed by recent work in "composition studies" where we explore techniques such as free writing, generative writing, reverse outlining etc.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Philip Cook
Tel: (0131 6)51 1577
Course secretaryMr John Riddell
Tel: (0131 6)50 9975
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