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 Saylor Student Handbook.


Course Description

This course is a detailed exploration of contemporary debates and controversies regarding global justice. Topics include: human rights theory, the moral significance of national and cultural boundaries, the currency of distributive justice, global inequality and poverty, environmental devastation, and violence against women and children. 


Course Introduction

How might you define, understand, and uphold justice in a global and globalizing world? That question forms the focal point of this course. It leads to an examination of whether or not global justice is impossible because of a chaotic and extremely diverse world, or to varying degrees, whether or not justice by its very nature demands a global context and scope of applicability. Justice, whether considered in abstraction or applied contexts, is fundamentally about human rights. We will begin this course with an exploration of human rights, a subject that grounds the entire course. Embedded in the human rights context is an analysis of the political theories of justice-through a cursory review of some of the seminal texts on global justice-along with an examination of applied and distributive justice focusing on specific issues or problems that have arisen in contemporary global dynamics. Thus, gender/sexuality, race/ethnicity, genocide, self-determination, environmental concerns, class, and participatory rights become the concrete realities to be explored in light of the theoretical material on global justice.

Stepping stones on the path through this course include political philosophy, international and global relations, and history. Such an interdisciplinary approach gives rise to a rigorous examination that includes practical reasoning, the tensions between universalism and relativism, as well as the very real issues and problems of creating and maintaining 'just' or 'fair' societies in a global context. To extend this line of thought further, the course will consider the following question: can global society itself be 'just' or 'fair' (assuming that such an all-encompassing society, in fact, exists)? Reflecting on the degree to which, if at all, individuals or states should desire convergence upon a set of abstract principles and consequent norms underscores the dual theoretical and applied nature of this course. Further, does such a convergence (whether required, coerced, or encouraged) necessarily occur at the expense of particular cultures, traditions, or identities?

This course is comprised of the following units:

  • Unit 1: A Human Rights Context For Global Justice
  • Unit 2: Some Origins of the Contemporary Justice & Rights Discourse
  • Unit 3: Political Theory and Global Justice
  • Unit 4: Empowerment, Agency, and Global Justice: Revisiting the Universal-Relative Debate
  • Unit 5: Resolving Conflictive 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'll also see related learning outcomes identified in each unit. You can use the learning outcomes to help organize your learning and gauge your progress.


Course Materials

The primary learning materials for this course are readings, lectures, video tutorials, and other resources.

All course materials are free to access, and can be found through the links provided in each unit and subunit of the course. Pay close attention to the notes that accompany these course materials, as they will instruct you as to what specifically to read or watch at a given point in the course, and help you to understand how these individual materials fit into the course as a whole. You can also access a list all of the materials used in this course by clicking on Resources in the course's "Activities" menu.


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 tabulated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam on your first attempt, you may take it again as many times as needed, following a 7-day waiting period between each attempt. Once you have successfully passed the final exam you will be awarded a free Saylor Certificate of Completion.

There are also 3 unit assessments and other types of quizzes in this course. These are intended to help you to gauge how well you are learning and do not factor into your final course grade. You may retake all of these as many times as needed to feel that you have an understanding of the concepts and material covered. You can locate a full list of these sorts of assessments by clicking on Quizzes in the course's "Activities" menu.


Tips for Success

POLSC402: Global Justice is a self-paced course in which you the learner determines when you will start and when you will complete the course. There is no instructor or predetermined schedule to follow. While learning styles can vary considerably and any particular student will take more or less time to learn or read, we estimate that the "average" student will take 51 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 (daily, or at least weekly) 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 below we've compiled a few suggested study strategies to help you succeed:

  • Take notes on the various terms, practices, and theories as you read. This can help you differentiate and contextualize concepts and later provide you with a refresher as you study.
  • As you progress through the materials, take time to test yourself on what you have retained and how well you understand the concepts. The process of reflection is important for creating a memory of the materials you learn; it will increase the probability that you ultimately retain the information.
  • Although you may work through this course completely independently, you may find it helpful to connect with other Saylor Academy students through the discussion forums. You may access the discussion forums at https://discourse.saylor.org.


Suggested Prerequisites

In order to take this course, you should:

  • have completed the following courses:
    • POLSC101: Introduction to Political Science;
    • POLSC201: Introduction to Western Political Thought;
    • POLSC221: Introduction to Comparative Politics; and
    • POLSC232: American Government.

Technical Requirements

This course is delivered fully 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, free of charge, here. Although you can access some course resources without being logged into your account, it's advised that you log in to maximize your course experience. For example, some of the accessibility and progress tracking features are only available when you are logged in.

For additional technical guidance check out Saylor Academy's tech-FAQ and the Moodle LMS tutorial.



There is no cost to access and enroll in this course. All required course resources linked throughout the course, including textbooks, videos, webpages, activities, etc are accessible for no charge. This course also contains a free final exam and course completion certificate.

Last modified: Thursday, August 22, 2019, 3:37 PM