PIR-10045 - Justice, Authority and Power
Coordinator: Monica Mookherjee Room: CBA1.026 Tel: +44 1782 7 33213
Lecture Time: See Timetable...
Level: Level 4
Credits: 15
Study Hours: 150
School Office:

Programme/Approved Electives for 2024/25


Available as a Free Standing Elective






Barred Combinations


Description for 2024/25

This module introduces students to the central debates in the history of Western political thought concerning justice and related concepts of political authority, power, liberty and the social contract. By posing critical questions concerning the nature and limits of state power, it provides a stimulating and enlightening opportunity for students in a wide range of disciplines, whether or not taking a principal degree in Politics, Philosophy and International Relations, to become familiar with the origin and development of the most influential ideas that have shaped modern states and societies.
The module firstly examines core issues in classical political thought through a study of Plato and Aristotle. Their writings present controversial but significant arguments for the universality of justice, the common good and the justification of elite power. The second part focuses on modern approaches to justice that focus principally on individual liberty, the social contract and the difference between wielding power and possessing legitimate authority to rule. The theories of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau contrast with those of the classical world, and are generally considered to have inaugurated the widespread defence of representative government and democracy around the world today.
Ten lectures introduce the main concepts and thinkers covered in the module, and are accompanied by a corresponding number of weekly meetings of small one-hour tutorial groups. In these tutorials, students have the opportunity to debate specific themes and questions.

1. To introduce first year students to core ideas in the history of Western political thought, including justice, political authority, state power and the social contract.
2. To convey to students the changing historical meaning of these concepts through a study of major thinkers in Western political thought, including Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau.
3. To enable students to acquire subject-specific knowledge as well as employability skills, including the capacity for analysis and argumentation through writing essays.

Talis Aspire Reading List
Any reading lists will be provided by the start of the course.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Recognise and define the major political concepts in the history of Western political thought: 1,2
Identify and illustrate the philosophical underpinnings of the different thinkers' approaches to issues of justice, authority and power, as presented in lectures and discussed in seminars: 1,2
Demonstrate rigour in the critical assessment of arguments presented in pertinent texts in the history of political thought, as prescribed in the module reading-list and, where appropriate, arising from the student's own searches: 1
Demonstrate detailed knowledge of the historical context, major writings and other crucial information relating to thinkers of the Western political tradition: 1
Develop a sustained and well-supported perspective on issues of justice, authority and power: 1

Study hours

10 hours attendance at lectures;
10 hours attendance at seminars;
45 hours preparation for seminars;
15 hours preparation for essay plan
70 hours researching and writing the essay

School Rules


Description of Module Assessment

1: Essay weighted 80%
Tutor-assessed essay of 1,750 words.
At a specified date after the end of the teaching programme, students will be asked to submit an essay from a given list of questions. The purpose of this task is to provide the student with the experience of presenting a sustained analysis of a particular concept or set of themes, or combination of both, that would utilise their critical and logical skills, whilst also familiarising them with key conventions in academic writing, such as consistent referencing, accurate self-expression and capacity for the reasoned evaluation of contrary perspectives.

2: Essay-Plan weighted 20%
A tutor-assessed essay-plan.
A plan for an essay, of approximately 600-700 words, in which students would formulate their response to one of a pre-set list of questions in preparation for the full essay.