Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module SGIA49230: Global Political Theory

Department: Government and International Affairs

SGIA49230: Global Political Theory

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2020/21 Module Cap None.


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • The aim of this module is to provide students with an advanced knowledge of the crucial debates in global political theory. The module will explore the nature of ethical obligations between persons living in different political communities alongside the moral assessment of specific institutional practices within the global economy and the global political system more broadly. It will aim to introduce students to issues such as: the distributive and ethical consequences of global financial integration, the nature and extent of moral obligations towards the global poor, the moral and political consequences of global inequality, the nature of human rights, the nature of fair trade, and the ethical obligations that result from colonial history.


  • The module will present different theoretical positions and authors by drawing on current debates in the fields of international ethics, international political theory, and contemporary political philosophy. Indicative questions that arise in these debates include: does the idea of justice make sense in the global context? Does the global order violate the poor’s rights? Do we have special obligations toward fellow citizens? Is global inequality a problem? What is a human right? Are developed countries justified in imposing tariffs on imports from developing countries? Is capital mobility morally tenable?

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On completion of this module, students will have acquired:
  • an advanced knowledge of applied aspects connected to moral evaluation of international organizations and global governance institutions;
  • an advanced knowledge of the main approaches to international ethics and global political theory.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of the module students should be able to demonstrate the ability to:
  • analyse complex topics in political science and international relations broadly construed and to do so on the basis of directed and independent learning;
  • carry out research in political science and international relations through independent work;
Key Skills:
  • Students will develop important key skills, suitable for underpinning study at this and subsequent levels, such as:
  • independent learning within a defined framework of study at an advanced level;
  • independent thought in analysing and critiquing existing scholarship relating to the subject area and evaluating its contribution;
  • advanced ability to seek out and use relevant sources
  • independent thinking informed by academic debate at an advanced level.
  • advanced essay-writing skills and the ability to work to a deadlines;
  • effective written communication of research and policy applications;
  • the ability to reflect critically on their own work and performance.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Students will be taught and learn through self-guided learning, lectures, class discussion, and seminars. Students are taught through one-hour lectures. A number of one hour seminars will also be offered to complement and further explore selected aspects developed in the lectures. Lectures will introduce students to key theoretical approaches alongside data relevant to the theme of the lecture. The lectures will be tailored to accommodate differential knowledge and disciplinary skills of cohorts and ensure that students approach seminars with an appropriate level of knowledge and understanding.
  • One-hour seminars will encourage students to explore selected elements of the lectures in greater detail and to identify areas in which they require particular guidance, for example on further reading. The seminars will also enable students to develop their abilities to conduct research, to communicate, to present theoretical alternatives and data, and to develop their own argumentation skills. Class discussion encourages background reading, contributing to the students’ independent learning. It will further allow students the opportunity to exchange ideas, to explore issues and arguments that interest or concern them in greater depth, and to receive feedback from both the group and the lecturer on their own arguments and understanding.
  • Students will be assessed through a 2000 word and a 3000 word essay. These essays will formally test skills of synthesis, analysis and critical evaluation with reference to material drawn from the module. They test students’ ability to formulate complex arguments in articulate and structured English, within the discursive conventions and genres of academic writing . Essays also indirectly test students’ ability to use sophisticated techniques of information retrieval and management, and to manage their time effectively.
  • The first essay will concern the material taught in Michaelmas Term, whereas the second essay will largely be based on the material considered in Epiphany term (although it will to some extent draw on theory learnt in Michaelmas term). • The formative work will consist of a 500 word essay plan. The formative essay plan will help students to prepare for the summative essays and hone their understanding of how to plan and structure critical essays. Students will receive written feedback on formative work to enable them to assess their ability to make sensible choices regarding what to include and how to structure their summative essays.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 14 Weekly 1 hour 14
Seminars 14 Weekly 1 hour 14
Preparation and Reading 272
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essays Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Summative Essay 1 2,000 words 30%
Summative Essay 2 3,000 words 70%

Formative Assessment:

A 500 word essay plan to help prepare for the summative essays and hone their understanding of how to formulate arguments and structure critical essays. Students will receive written feedback on formative work to enable them to assess their understanding of the task of essay writing before the summative essay.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University