Search | Directories | Reference Tools
UW Home > Discover UW > Student Guide > Course Catalog 

Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Jason Mayerfeld
POL S 514
Seattle Campus

Selected Topics in Political Theory

Selected topics, historical and conceptual, national, regional, and universal. Prerequisite: permission of instructor.

Class description

Description. As the idea of human rights gains power around the world, it has stirred philosophical questions and controversies. There is persistent disagreement about the meaning and justification of human rights, the correct enumeration of human rights, the universality of human rights, the proper understanding of women’s rights, the status of group rights, and the permissibility of enforcing human rights across international borders. In this course, we will draw from the rich body of philosophical literature on human rights developed over the last few centuries, and connect it to recent normative and political debates sparked by the growing prominence of the international human rights movement. Attention will be paid to critics of human rights as well as those who argue from within a human rights framework.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Objective. Students will become familiar with and learn to critically engage important issues in the current literature on human rights. They will receive faculty guidance in developing a research paper on a theoretical or practical human rights issue.

Recommended preparation

Texts. Students are expected to have read John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government and J.S. Mill’s On Liberty prior to the course. The tentative reading list includes the following works (not all to be read in their entirety): Twenty-Five Human Rights Documents; Isaiah Berlin, “Two Concepts of Liberty”; Thomas Nagel, “Personal Rights and Public Space”; Jeremy Waldron, Liberal Rights; Joanne Bauer and Daniel Bell, eds., The East Asian Challenge for Human Rights; Martha Nussbaum, Women and Human Development; Patricia Williams, The Alchemy of Race and Rights; Wendy Brown, “Rights and Losses”; Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars; John Rawls, The Law of Peoples.

Class assignments and grading

Assignments. Regular attendance and participation in seminar; weekly response papers (2 pages each) on the assigned readings; a short essay (5 pages) in conjunction with a seminar presentation; and a term paper (15 to 30 pages) with obligatory rough draft.

Grading. Term Papers: 60 % (Term paper) Short Paper/Presentation: 15 % response papers: 25 % Other: % TOTAL: 100 %


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Suman C. Chhabra
Date: 11/17/2000