PIR-20066 - Freedom and Equality
Coordinator: Monica Mookherjee Room: CBA1.026 Tel: +44 1782 7 33213
Lecture Time: See Timetable...
Level: Level 5
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 provides an introduction to two of the most widely debated concepts in contemporary political theory. Freedom and equality are amongst the central values of modern political life, and inform many campaigns for justice around the world today. The module focuses on current thinking about the meaning, justification and political application of these concepts. Through examining the ideas of leading contemporary political theorists and philosophers, students gain a better understanding of two of the most interesting and important concepts in contemporary political thought and practice.
The module firstly examines Isaiah Berlin's famous distinction between 'negative' and 'positive' freedom. We ask whether justice involves ensuring citizens' freedom from physical harm or other forms of danger; or whether freedom is a matter of achieving goals that one sets for oneself - i.e., autonomy. The distinction between 'positive' and 'negative' freedom is applied to the topical debate about free speech in liberal societies. The second part of the module focuses on equality. Why is equality valuable? Is it more valuable than freedom? Should egalitarians be committed to securing equal opportunities or equal outcomes? Pressing issues of equality between present and future generations and between different nations are also considered.
Lectures introduce the main concepts and thinkers covered in the module, and are accompanied by meetings of small one-hour tutorial groups. In the tutorials, students have an opportunity to engage in structured discussions about particular themes and questions.

1. To familiarise students with important issues and theoretical debates about freedom and equality within contemporary political theory.
2. To enable students to develop the skills necessary to analyse questions about freedom and equality using their own assessments of well-established theoretical perspectives, general principles and counter-examples.
3. To enable students to acquire subject-specific knowledge as well as employability skills, including the capacity for analysis and argumentation through writing the essay; for effective planning and preparation through the essay plan; and independent reasoning skills by taking the examination.

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

Intended Learning Outcomes

Recognise and define freedom and equality as major concepts in political theory: 1,2
Identify the philosophical underpinnings of different traditions of thought (e.g., liberal; communitarian; libertarian) with contrasting interpretations of these concepts: 1,2
Demonstrate rigour in the critical assessment of arguments presented in pertinent readings in contemporary political philosophy, as prescribed in the module reading-list and, where appropriate, arising from the student's own searches: 1,2
Communicate ideas effectively in written forms: 1,2
Develop a sustained and well-supported perspective on the meaning and importance of freedom and equality as core political ideas: 2
Understand the nature of academic honesty and plagiarism, and effectively apply conventions regarding the use and acknowledgement of sources, employing the Harvard system of referencing: 1,2

Study hours

10 hours lectures;
10 hours seminars;
55 hours preparation for seminars and essay writing;
35 hours revision for examination;
40 hours researching and writing the essay

School Rules


Description of Module Assessment

1: Open Book Examination weighted 50%
28-hour 'Take-Home' Exam (On-Line)
At a specified time after the end of the teaching programme, students will be asked to undertake a 28-hour 'take-home' examination in which they should answer two questions, in the form of two short essays of 750 words each, from a choice of six or seven questions which will be made available via the module KLE. Students are expected to spend around three hours on this assessment during the assessment window.

2: Essay weighted 50%
Essay of 2,000 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 enable the student to analyse independently an area of conceptual debate which engages their critical and logical skills, whilst also prompting them to practise key conventions of academic writing, such as consistent referencing, accurate self-expression and an ability assess contrary arguments in a reasoned way.