Inequality and Public Policy

Subject PHIL90032 (2016)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2016.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 9 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2016:

Semester 1, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 29-Feb-2016 to 29-May-2016
Assessment Period End 24-Jun-2016
Last date to Self-Enrol 11-Mar-2016
Census Date 31-Mar-2016
Last date to Withdraw without fail 06-May-2016

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 24 hours - 1 x 2 hour seminar each week for 12 weeks
Total Time Commitment:

170 hours


Admission into the Master of Arts in Professional and Applied Ethics or MC-EMA Executive master of Arts or 344AB Master of Public Policy and Management or another Masters by Coursework programme at the University of Melbourne with coordinator approval. Exceptions may be made for students at honours level, who may enrol with the approval of both their discipline coordinator and the subject coordinator.

Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support:


Mr Sagar Sanyal


Subject Overview:

This subject examines the way in which egalitarian political philosophy offers moral guidance in a variety of policy-making contexts. After examining some philosophical treatments of the fundamental, abstract value of equality, our attention will turn to more specific ways in such philosophical theorising can influence public policy: How should a concern for equality guide policy about education, unemployment, and other important public services? Should unemployed people have their benefits cut if they refuse to take a job they don't want? Does affirmative action make society fairer, or discriminate against hard-working high achievers? Do private schools allow rich people to buy an unfair advantage for their children? General concepts to be discussed include egalitarian concerns about stigmatisation, shame, social integration, and oppression – as well as how policy might seek to address them.

Learning Outcomes:

Students who complete this subject will:

  • Understand important philosophical analyses of the value of equality and its role in guiding the study of distributive justice;
  • Be able to interpret these analyses so as to critically assess the case for and against policy proposals in areas such as education, unemployment, and religious toleration;
  • Appreciate the relation between egalitarian thought and attempts to use public policies to address problems of stigmatisation, status hierarchy, unfairness, and others.

  • A 1000 word critical review of a week’s readings, due at the end of week 3 (20%)
  • A 4000 word research essay due in the end of semester examination period (80%)

Hurdle requirement:

  • Students must attend a minimum of 80% of classes in order to pass this subject.
Prescribed Texts:

Subject readings will be available online

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Links to further information:
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: 100 Point Master of Arts (Professional and Applied Ethics)
100 Point Master of Public Policy and Management
100 Point Master of Social Policy
150 Point Master of Public Policy and Management
150 Point Master of Social Policy
200 Point Master of Public Policy and Management
200 Point Master of Social Policy
200 points Master of Arts (Professional and Applied Ethics)
EMA 150 point program - full time over 1.5 years
EMA 200 point program - full time over 1.5 years
EMA 200 point program - full time over 2 years
Graduate Certificate in Arts (Advanced) - Professional Ethics
Graduate Certificate in Arts - Philosophy
Graduate Diploma in Arts (Advanced) - Professional Ethics
Graduate Diploma in Arts - Philosophy

Download PDF version.