Distributive Justice

  • Studiepoeng10
  • UndervisingssemesterVår
  • EmnekodeSAMPOL346
  • Talet på semester1
  • SpråkEnglish
  • Ressursar

Studienivå (studiesyklus)



Spring - irregular

Mål og innhald

"Distributive Justice" is a graduate research course on political philosophy, focusing on the fair distribution of income and wealth. The more precise purpose of the course is to study and discuss liberalism (and its critics) - a political ideology founded on the ideas of liberty (e.g. freedom of religion, civil rights) and equality (e.g. equal opportunity for income and wealth). Students will engage in a critical discussion of liberal egalitarianism - the clearest representation of liberalism as a political philosophy, but also alternative doctrines, such as utilitarianism, Marxism, Rawlsianism, and libertarianism. A main aim of the course is to use political philosophy as a tool for understanding current political events, such as the new "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" in the US.

Furthermore, the course draws on normative as well as empirical research. By combining an empirical approach with a theoretical approach, the course aims to merge two areas of research that unfortunately are separated and for the most part studied independently of each other. This distinction between empirical and normative analysis is unfortunate because they both benefit from each other. Normative research benefits empirical research by giving it structure, direction, and purpose. Empirical research benefits normative research by examining what is practically feasible.

The course includes themes that have high relevance for subfields of comparative politics: democracy, civil society, power, the welfare state, and inequality. It is divided into three themes: a) theoretical literature on distribute justice: b) empirical literature on distributive justice (including the latest experimental research on people's distributive behavior); and c) the policy implications of a) and b). To illustrate the latter: how does findings from a) and b) translate into polarized political issues and discussions of today - what are some of the main implications of a) and b) for actual policy making?

Each student will be required to submit one 5000-word (maximum) essay. The problems to be addressed will be generated through reading seminal primary and secondary texts in political philosophy as well as empirical studies of citizens' attitudes towards issues such as the fair distribution of income and wealth.


A student who has completed the course should have the following learning outcomes:


  • possess a broad knowledge of the major normative traditions in distributive justice (including Marxism, libertarianism, luck egalitarianism, and Rawlsianism);
  • demonstrate knowledge of the key debates within liberal political theory and between liberal and non-liberal perspectives;
  • display familiarity with and critically evaluate the analytical methods, data and findings related to the study of individual-level (as well as cross-national) data on citizen attitudes to distributive justice, the state, and redistributive public policy;
  • demonstrate knowledge of a wide range of public policy approaches, their respective philosophical roots, and their consequences for equality;
  • identify the pan-historical relevance of theoretical models from classical political thought and refined skills in utilizing such classical theories for the analysis of contemporary problems.


  • analyze and critically reflect upon key arguments presented in original texts drawn from classic contributions to the theory of distributive justice;
  • discuss and debate in seminar format the relative logical and normative persuasiveness and strengths/weaknesses of classic and contemporary texts in distributive justice;
  • complete an academic paper in political theory.
  • develop skills in political argument involving the analysis of empirical findings in the light of normative values, alongside debate and evaluation of alternative public policy responses.

General competence

  • understand the importance of the history and development of political ideas for contextualizing and understanding contemporary scholarly contributions;
  • analyze and critically debate the linkages between abstract political theory, empirical studies of theoretical propositions and hypotheses, and public policy responses;
  • perform normative argumentation and public policy analysis.

Krav til forkunnskapar

Students must have completed a bachelor's degree in political science or an equivalent (subject to approval by the administration of the Department of Comparative Politics).

Tilrådde forkunnskapar


Krav til studierett

The course is oriented towards students who have been accepted into the department's master's program but is open to visiting students upon approval of student request.

Arbeids- og undervisningsformer

Literature Seminars and Workshop/Writing Seminars

Obligatorisk undervisningsaktivitet

Full attendance at no fewer than 80% of the seminars.

All students are to present in class various texts from the reading list, which subsequently will be discussed in class.


One 5000-word final essay




Spring - irregular


Alle emne blir evaluert i tråd med UiBs kvalitetssystem for utdanning.


Department of Comparative Politics