MA Political Science - Political Theory Pathway (Standard Route) / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Theories of Rights

Course unit fact file
Unit code POLI70722
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The aim of this course is to help students address some fundamental questions about rights by studying a wide range of contemporary writings in moral philosophy, political theory and jurisprudence. Questions to be considered include: What are rights? What are human rights? Who or what can possess rights? What’s the difference between moral rights and legal rights? What rights would people have in a socially just state? Does the state have the right to punish its citizens? Do human beings have rights of self-ownership? Is there are human right to be free from poverty? Is there a human right to immigrate and settle anywhere in the world? How do we determine whose duty is it to see that human rights of various kinds are fulfilled? Should rights be constitutionally protected? Do cultural minorities have group rights to non-interference or would this undermine the rights of individuals to be protected from oppression?

Learning outcomes

Students will be expected to develop a good understanding of a selection of recent articles on rights theory and thus to equip themselves to take an informed and critical position on current controversies about rights. In so doing, they will acquire experience in the analysis, construction and presentation of theoretical arguments.

Teaching and learning methods

The course will be taught in ten 2 hour sessions 

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 10%
Written assignment (inc essay) 90%

750 word essay (15%)

2,250 word essay (75%)

Seminar participation (10%).

Recommended reading

  • Peter Jones, Rights (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 1994) purchase of this text is required
  • Jeremy Waldron, Theories of Rights (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 130

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Richard Child Unit coordinator

Additional notes



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