Faculty of Law

Undergraduate - Unit

This unit entry is for students who completed this unit in 2014 only. For students planning to study the unit, please refer to the unit indexes in the the current edition of the Handbook. If you have any queries contact the managing faculty for your course or area of study.

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6 points, SCA Band 3, 0.125 EFTSL

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered, or view unit timetables.

FacultyFaculty of Law
OfferedPrato Term 2 2014 (Day)
Coordinator(s)Dr Janice Richardson


The aim of this course is to consider the meaning of political liberty in Europe today. It will start by comparing different traditions of European thought on the meaning of freedom that continue to influence our views. Whilst the course is focused upon primary readings of political philosophers, their theoretical frameworks will be considered in the context of contemporary legal debates and concepts.
Indicative subject matter (which can be reduced depending upon time and student interest):
Seminar 1: Introduction to different concepts of political freedom and the relationship to different contemporary issues in law in contemporary Europe
Seminar 2: The liberal tradition: Mill "On Liberty"; the limits of law
Seminar 3: Berlin's concept of negative liberty and Waldron's discussion of property law and homelessness
Seminar 4: Robert Nozick: freedom as an argument for a minimal state; Cohen's attack on the concept of self-ownership; responses to the question: could freedom of contract include the right to enter into a civil slave agreement?
Seminar 5: Carole Pateman: freedom as the absence of subordination; the "sexual contract"; images of employment and traditional marriage contracts; a critique of the liberal public/private divide and concepts of privacy in law.
Seminar 6: The Civic Republican Tradition: Skinner's Reading of Machiavelli
Seminar 7: Arendt on freedom as public action; European context
Seminar 8: Kant's concept of liberty and of personhood; links with the concept of legal personhood and public reason
Seminar 9: Cornell's reading of Kant; a legal test for law's legitimacy
Seminar 10 and 11: Foucault on freedom; law cannot guarantee freedom; is it possible to judge a freer society within a Foucauldian framework? This will include an examination of the shift from middle to late Foucault and Patton's reading compared with Charles Taylor.
Seminar 12: Revision


Students who successfully complete this unit should develop:

  1. A detailed and critical understanding of the key elements of diverse arguments within the European tradition on the nature of political freedom and its relationship to law.
  2. An ability to understand and evaluate competing theoretical frameworks and to formulate, express and support the student's own arguments.


Seminar participation: 10%, seminar presentation: 10% and take-home examination of 4,000 words maximum: 80%.

Chief examiner(s)

Workload requirements

This will vary depending upon the demands of Prato and the timetable. Indicative hours would be: 6 hours a week for 6 weeks or 12 hours per week for 3 weeks. The total number of hours contact will remain 36.


LAW1101 & LAW1104 or other equivalent introduction to law course.