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

Undergraduate Course: Contemporary Issues in Political Theory (PLIT10107)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryContemporary Issues in Political Theory takes a recent topic, one emerging in the news or in the academic literature, and provides students with the tools to identify the normative issues it raises and to analyse these using rigorous methods of political theory.
Course description The substantive content of the course will change each year depending on topical issues and will be taught by experts on the issue itself or on particular approaches/methods from amongst permanent and postdoctoral staff. For example, it might cover matters of public concern like the ethics of immigration policy, the political and constitutional issues in a debate on EU membership, the ethics of climate change policy, the normative analysis of particular military interventions or human rights crises that arise in other contexts. Whichever the topic, students will also, importantly, acquire the generic skills to analyse any normative issue: including how to place it within a larger context, where to look for relevant normative precedents, the types of assumption that may be at work, and the types of argument deployed in arriving at different normative positions in relation to the topic, and how to arrive at reasoned assessments of what considerations may tend to comment one position over another.

For 2017/18, the theme will be climate justice. Questions to be addressed include: Why is climate change an injustice? Do we have duties of justice to future generations, or even to non-humans? Who is responsible for climate harm, given that each individual's emissions may make no perceptible difference? How should the burdens of mitigation, adaptation, and compensation be distributed across states? How just is the Paris Agreement? How should global negotiators respond to urgency and non-compliance? Should extreme measures such as geoengineering or population controls be considered? What should individuals be doing: cutting emissions, promoting local, state or global action, aiding the victims of climate change, even having fewer children?

The course will be taught as a two-hour seminar involving a mixture of student presentations, debates, and big or small group discussion, facilitated and chaired by the organize. Students will view an online mini-lecture on each topic in advance of the session, and will be given some specific questions to consider in the light of their reading each week. Required and optional political philosophy reading is indicated for each session.

Written feedback will be provided on essays, verbal feedback on presentations and debates, and commentary on discussion in class. The organizer will provide advice in class on structuring, planning, and writing a good political theory essay, and will be available during her feedback and guidance hours for further discussion.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed:
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements This course is only available to senior honours students on a Politics or International Relations (including joint honours) degree programme.
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.

** as numbers are limited, visiting students should contact the Visiting Student Section for admission to this course **
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Students will be able to demonstrate empirically-informed understanding of contemporary debates on the chosen topic from a relevant range of normative perspectives
  2. Students will have specialist in-depth knowledge of specific areas and issues in relation to the chosen topic
  3. Students will be able to critically engage with key theories, concepts, and arguments in the study of the chosen normative issue.
  4. Students will acquire effective communications skills, both written and verbal, to provide clear and concise analysis of the topic and arguments at hand
  5. Students will be able to engage in critical thinking, reflection and debate for academic and non-academic consumption.
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Critical thinking and analysis
Team work
Effective written and verbal communication
Effective research and analytical skills
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Elizabeth Cripps
Tel: (0131 6)51 1948
Course secretaryMr Alexander Dysart
Tel: (0131 6)51 5197
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