Welcome to POLSC402: Global Justice

Specific information about this course and its requirements can be found below. For more general information about taking Saylor Academy courses, including information about Community and Academic Codes of Conduct, please read the Student Handbook.


Course Description

Explore the contemporary debates and controversies around global justice, including topics like human rights, national and cultural boundaries, distributive justice, global inequality and poverty, environmental devastation, and violence against women and children.


Course Introduction

How do we define, understand, and uphold principles of justice in the global political environment? Some argue we cannot achieve global justice in a world that is increasingly chaotic and diverse. Others say that, by its very nature, justice demands a global context and uniform scope of applicability.

In this course, we review political philosophy, international and global relations, history, practical reasoning, the tensions between universalism and relativism, and the challenge of creating and maintaining just or fair societies in a global context.

Can global society be just and fair? Should individuals and states desire convergence on a set of abstract principles or consequent norms? Furthermore, does this type of global convergence (whether required, coerced, or encouraged) necessarily occur at the expense of particular cultures, traditions, and identities?

Justice is fundamentally about human rights. We begin this course by reviewing political theories of global justice, followed by an exploration of contemporary global dynamics in applied and distributive justice. In Units 4–7, we study gender and sexuality issues, race and ethnicity, genocide, self-determination, environmental concerns, class, and participatory rights within the context of global justice.

This course includes the following units:

  • Unit 1: A Human Rights Context for Global Justice
  • Unit 2: Origins of the Contemporary Justice and Rights Discourse
  • Unit 3: Political Theory and Global Justice
  • Unit 4: Empowerment, Agency, and Global Justice: Revisiting the Universal-Relative Debate
  • Unit 5: Resolving Conflicting Claims for Justice: Revisiting the Individual-Collective Debate
  • Unit 6: Participation, Rights, Needs, and Global Justice: Revisiting Civil, Political and Economic, Social, Cultural Rights Debate
  • Unit 7: Final Considerations: Are Global and Justice Compatible in Theory and Practice?


Course Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • discuss the significance of a human rights context for exploring global justice including key conceptual, international historical developments, and western versus non-western perspectives of human rights;
  • compare and contrast competing notions of justice grounded in the debate between natural order and utilitarian conceptualizations;
  • compare and contrast nationalist and cosmopolitan political perspectives, and explain how different conceptions of the self and corresponding theories of justice relate to each perspective;
  • identify different conceptions of global distributive justice and articulate arguments made in support of and against these conceptions;
  • analyze western and non-western perspectives as well as their related conceptual underpinnings of human rights and associated notions of theoretical and applied justice; and
  • reconsider theoretical material in light of specific global realities pertaining to political agency, conflicting pursuits of justice, and the needs versus rights discourse.

Throughout this course, you will also see learning outcomes in each unit. You can use those learning outcomes to help organize your studies and gauge your progress.


Course Materials

The primary learning materials for this course are articles, lectures, and videos.

All course materials are free to access and can be found in each unit of the course. Pay close attention to the notes that accompany these course materials, as they will tell you what to focus on in each resource, and will help you to understand how the learning materials fit into the course as a whole. You can also see a list of all the learning materials in this course by clicking on Resources in the navigation bar.


Evaluation and Minimum Passing Score

Only the final exam is considered when awarding you a grade for this course. In order to pass this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the final exam. Your score on the exam will be calculated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam on your first try, you may take it again as many times as you want, with a 7-day waiting period between each attempt. Once you have successfully passed the final exam you will be awarded a free Course Completion Certificate.

There are also reading questions in this course. These are designed to help you study, and do not factor into your final course grade. You can take these as many times as you want until you understand the concepts and material covered. You can see all of these assessments by clicking on Quizzes in the course's navigation bar.


Tips for Success

POLSC402: Global Justice is a self-paced course, which means that you can decide when you will start and when you will complete the course. There is no instructor or an assigned schedule to follow. We estimate that the "average" student will take 31 hours to complete this course. We recommend that you work through the course at a pace that is comfortable for you and allows you to make regular progress. It's a good idea to also schedule your study time in advance and try as best as you can to stick to that schedule.

Learning new material can be challenging, so we've compiled a few study strategies to help you succeed:

  • Take notes on the various terms, practices, and theories that you come across. This can help you put each concept into context, and will create a refresher that you can use as you study later on.
  • As you work through the materials, take some time to test yourself on what you remember and how well you understand the concepts. Reflecting on what you've learned is important for your long-term memory, and will make you more likely to retain information over time.


Suggested Prerequisites

In order to take this course, you should:


Technical Requirements

This course is delivered entirely online. You will be required to have access to a computer or web-capable mobile device and have consistent access to the internet to either view or download the necessary course resources and to attempt any auto-graded course assessments and the final exam.

  • To access the full course including assessments and the final exam, you will need to be logged into your Saylor Academy account and enrolled in the course. If you do not already have an account, you may create one for free here. Although you can access some of the course without logging in to your account, you should log in to maximize your course experience. For example, you cannot take assessments or track your progress unless you are logged in.

For additional guidance, check out Saylor Academy's FAQ.



This course is entirely free to enroll in and to access. Everything linked in the course, including textbooks, videos, webpages, and activities, is available for no charge. This course also contains a free final exam and course completion certificate.

Last modified: Wednesday, September 22, 2021, 4:34 PM