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POLS202 Theories of Justice

An exploration of different theories of justice from ancient to contemporary times. Examples may include justice as a social contract, justice as impartiality, distributive justice, reconciliation and restorative justice, and retributive justice.

This paper explores different theories of justice in contemporary political thought. All societies need rules. But what constitutes a just law and why? What might be a fair distribution of society's resources? Do we need to accommodate and affirm gender and cultural differences in our public policies and laws or should justice be blind to such differences? And how should we punish those who transgress our laws? The topics we examine in exploring these questions include rights, distributive justice, equality and multiculturalism, the politics of community, representation and difference, retributive justice and revenge, forgiveness and reconciliation.

Paper title Theories of Justice
Paper code POLS202
Subject Politics
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2023 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $955.05
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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One 100-level POLS paper or PHIL 103 or 72 points
Schedule C
Arts and Music
An interest in national and international affairs is an advantage.
Teaching staff
Associate Professor Vicki Spencer
Paper Structure

2 x 50-minute lectures; 1 x 50-minute tutorial


The readings will be available on E-Reserve via Blackboard.

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Research, Self-motivation.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete this paper will:

  • possess an in-depth understanding of the key debates and concepts in contemporary Anglo-American political theory on issues of social justice and theories of punishment and
  • have skills in critical analysis, argumentation, research and writing.

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Not offered in 2023

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system