Justice, Democracy and Difference

Subject POLS40004 (2012)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2012.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 4 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2012:

Semester 1, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period not applicable
Assessment Period End not applicable
Last date to Self-Enrol not applicable
Census Date not applicable
Last date to Withdraw without fail not applicable

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: A 2-hour seminar per week. If enrolments exceed 35, the 2nd hourof the seminar may be split into 2 or 3 small classes.
Total Time Commitment:






Recommended Background Knowledge:

Politics and International Studies at Undergraduate level

Non Allowed Subjects:

166-416 Justice, Democracy and Difference

Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website: http://www.services.unimelb.edu.au/disability/


Prof Robyn Eckersley


Prof. Robyn Eckersley r.eckersley@unimelb.edu.au

Subject Overview:

This subject provides a critical examination of contemporary debates about ideas of justice, democracy and the politics of difference. The subject critically explores both the major liberal approaches to justice alongside critiques of liberal approaches by communitarian, socialist, feminist, postmodern and radical ecological theorists. Students will be introduced to the different perspectives on justice in terms of their linkages and, in some cases, increasing convergence with different approaches to dealing with democracy and difference. Particular emphasis is given to the tensions between cosmopolitan versus communitarian approaches to ordering political life and the tensions between arguments for individual versus group/communal rights. The different perspectives on justice, democracy and difference are analysed and applied in relation to a range of contemporary political conflicts concerning race, ethnicity, class, gender, the environment and the multicultural state. Examples include political claims for the recognition of ethnic minority rights. the political recognition of religious. ethnic and/or gender difference. the special or weighted political representation or veto rights of ethnic minorities. the different political interpretations of, and priorities accorded to, the human rights agenda and claims for self-determination by indigenous peoples and national minorities.

  • recognise and understand the major perspectives on justice in contemporary political thought (i.e., liberal, communitarian, socialist, feminist, postmodern, postcolonial and ecological).
  • be able to understand the linkages and, in some cases, increasing convergence between different perspectives on justice and different approaches to dealing with democracy and difference (or political participation and recognition), manifest in the increasing interest in free political communication or 'dialogic justice'.
  • be able to identify and comprehend the key points of agreement and disagreement between each perspective, including the tensions between cosmopolitan and communitarian approaches and the contested debate over the fairness of individual versus 'group' or 'communal' rights.
  • be able to relate the theoretical debates about justice, democracy and difference to contemporary political controversies, including political claims for the recognition of ethnic/cultural, religious, linguistic, gender and sexual difference. veto powers or special representation by ethnic minorities, the critique of universal human rights. and the case for self-determination and/or secession by indigenous peoples and national minorities.

An essay of 5000 words (100%) due during the examination period, OR two x 2,500 word essays, the first of which is due mid-semester and the second due during the examination period.

Hurdle Requirement: Students are required to attend a minimum of 75% of classes in order to qualify to have their written work assessed.Students who fail to meet this hurdle requirement will be deemed ineligible to submit the final piece of assessment for this subject.Regular participation in class is required.

Assessment that is submitted after the due date and up to 10 working days late without an approved extension will be marked on a pass/fail basis only. Assessment that is submitted later than 10 working days will not be accepted or marked. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked. All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.

Prescribed Texts:

A subject reader will be available for purchase from the University Bookshop.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:
  • be able to apply research skills and critical methods to a field of inquiry.
  • have developed persuasive arguments on a given topic.
  • be able to communicate oral and written arguments and ideas effectively and articulately.
Related Course(s): Master of Criminology (CWT)
Master of Development Studies (Gender & Development)
Master of Development Studies(CWT)
Master of Islamic Studies
Master of Public Policy and Management (Coursework)
Postgraduate Diploma in Arts (Public Policy and Management)
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: 150 point program - full time over 18 months
200 point program - full time over 18 months
200 point program - full time over 24 months
Development Studies
Development Studies
Development Studies
Gender Studies
Gender Studies
Gender Studies
International Politics
International Studies
Political Science
Political Science
Political Science
Politics and International Studies
Public Policy and Management
Public Policy and Management
Socio-Legal studies
Socio-legal Studies
Sustainable Cities, Sustainable Regions

Download PDF version.