LAW AND CONTEMPORARY SOCIAL ISSUES - 2020/1

Module code: LAW2096

Module Overview

Societies, just like individuals, routinely face hard decisions about what kind of life they want to live. What form of government should they have? How much say should people have in particular government decisions? What is the best balance between freedom and equality? What parts of people’s lives should they govern? How should they punish people who break the law? How should they behave towards other societies? And what is the role of law in all this? Any serious attempt to answers questions like these involves engagement with key concepts in social and political philosophy – concepts like authority, democracy, liberty, rights, justice, and equality.

In this module, which is conducted in seminar format, we will look closely at these concepts and some important and challenging arguments concerning fundamental social and political issues. We will also scrutinise important legal cases and statutes related to these debates. Specifically, we will address such questions as: What makes a society just? What’s good about democracy? Do people have rights? Is it always wrong to break the law? How can legal punishment be justified? Is all discrimination wrong? Is there such a thing as international justice?

Module provider

School of Law

Module Leader

ASGEIRSSON Hrafn (Schl of Law)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 5

JACs code: M240

Module cap (Maximum number of students): 30

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites

None

Module content


  • Democracy

  • Rights and Liberty

  • Justice

  • Liberal society and toleration

  • Impartiality and legislation

  • Our obligation to obey the law and civil disobedience

  • Legal punishment in general

  • Sentencing Equality and (indirect) discrimination

  • Affirmative action

  • Justice and disability

  • International Justice

  • Just war

  • The authority of international institutions


Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework 3,000 word summative essay 100

Alternative Assessment

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Assessment Strategy


  • Formative (essay, 1500 words)

  • Summative (essay, 3000 words)



During weeks 2-5, students will have the option to do two short exercises in relation to critical writing (around 5-600 words each), leading into the formative. Each exercise will involve summarising an argument from the reading and critically evaluating it, perhaps also adding one’s own thoughts on the matter. Specific instructions for the exercises will be given in due time.

Module aims

  • To familiarise students with some the main issues and arguments in social and political philosophy, and with important legal cases and statutes related to these debates.
  • To train students in reading complex texts, for the purpose of identifying and reconstructing their main theses.
  • To train students in critically evaluating challenging arguments and in presenting that evaluation with rigour and clarity.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed Ref
001 Read and comprehend challenging philosophical texts relating to fundamental social issues CKPT
002 Critically evaluate some of the dominant positions in social and political philosophy CKPT
003 Develop an awareness of how important social issues may come up in legislation and case law CKPT
004 Develop an ability to reason cogently and clearly about abstract issues and to identify their potential practical implications CKPT
005 Undertake directed research CPT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Overall student workload

Independent Study Hours: 117

Seminar Hours: 33

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

Help students to engage directly with complex philosophical ideas related to contemporary social issues and the role in law in debates about these matters. This involves developing a classroom and broader teaching environment that demystifies seemingly intimidating ideas and relates them to readily comprehensible experiences and phenomena, while enabling students to discuss, deploy, and evaluate challenging philosophical ideas. Students are encouraged to participate in seminars with questions and comments.

The learning and teaching methods include: Seminars (3 x 11 hours).

Seminars will take place in 3 hour blocks on a weekly basis. The seminars serve both to consolidate understanding of the material and to develop students’ confidence and ability to develop their own critical answers to the questions asked in this module, and to guide them through the development of their own research project, acquainting them with additional research strategies, assessing the relevance of articles, techniques for digesting material quickly, and developing their own topics and arguments.

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list

Reading list for LAW AND CONTEMPORARY SOCIAL ISSUES : http://aspire.surrey.ac.uk/modules/law2096

Other information

n/a

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Law LLB (Hons) 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2020/1 academic year.