Rights, Freedoms and Individualism:Contemporary Liberalism in Question - POLI5920

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2021 to 2022.


Anglo-American countries, such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, along with many Western European societies, have long prided themselves on their respect for liberal values. More recently, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and agitation for rights and civil freedoms in many Asian countries, liberalism has extended its reach as a source of political thought and action. Liberalism's values, practices and institutions are now admired, emulated, invoked and desired in many parts of the world. In this module, we look at liberalism as a philosophy of politics by studying the work of some of its major contemporary exponents and detractors. We examine the different approaches to liberalism advanced by figures such as John Rawls, Richard Rorty, and Will Kymlicka. To complement our understanding of liberalism, we consider the communitarian criticisms from thinkers like Charles Taylor and Michael Sandel, the feminist criticism of liberalism by Susan Moller Okin, and the post-structuralist criticisms from Michel Foucault.


Contact hours

150 hours including 22 hours lecture/seminar; 128 study hours


Not Available in 2016/2017.

Method of assessment

100% Coursework (20% Written Reconstruction; 80% Essay).

Indicative reading

Kymlicka W Contemporary Political Philosophy 2nd edition ( Oxford, Oxford UP, 2002)
Okin SM Justice, Gender and the Family ( New York, Basic Books , 1989 )
Avineri S & de Shalit A (eds.) Communiantrianism and Individualism (Oxford, Blackwell , 1992)

Learning outcomes

Be able to reflect upon several of the political ideals and institutions that are often taken for granted in political discourse in westernised societies;
Have a deeper knowledge of liberal ideas and the debates surrounding them;
Be able to interpret some of the key texts by liberal writers and their critics;
Be able to express the debates surrounding liberalism in their own words;
Be capable of critically evaluating different perspectives on liberalism and situating them vis-à-vis one another.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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