Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Giuseppe Sciara

  • Credits 8

  • SSD SPS/02

  • Teaching Mode Traditional lectures

  • Language Italian

  • Campus of Bologna

  • Degree Programme Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Local and Global Development (cod. 5912)

  • Course Timetable from Feb 20, 2023 to May 10, 2023

Academic Year 2022/2023

Learning outcomes

The aim of the course is to provide advanced knowledge on some fundamental concepts of political theory, to reconstruct from a historical-political point of view the genealogy of the concepts of democracy and social justice, and to present the main modern and contemporary theories that have characterised their evolution and transformations. At the end of the course, students will be able to: a) recall the authors and critically present the debates that have contributed to the reflection on democracy and social justice in modern and contemporary times; b) to clarify the connection between the concepts of democracy and social justice and to assess their relationship both with other concepts of political modernity such as freedom, equality, rights, and with the different currents of political thought such as liberalism, nationalism, socialism, populism.

Course contents

The course is divided into three parts. After some opportune references to the 'genetic' phase of democracy on the European continent during the period of the French Revolution, the first part will deal with some 20th century conceptions of democracy, also in relation to other currents of thought such as liberalism and socialism, starting from authors such as Hans Kelsen, Giovanni Sartori, Norberto Bobbio, Isaiah Berlin, Robert Dahl and Colin Crouch. The second part will focus on the relationship between democracy and social justice through authors such as John Rawls, Friedrich von Hayek, Robert Nozick, Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum. In the last part of the course, the theme of social justice will be addressed in its more contemporary declinations, in relation to issues such as immigration, identity, growing inequality and the digital revolution, closely connected to the debate on the "death" of liberal democracy and the rise of populism and new forms of nationalism in the West World.


Mandatory reading:

1) N. BOBBIO, Liberalismo e democrazia, Milano, Simonelli, 2006, (pp. 29-126);

2) A. SEN, Etica ed economia, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 2013;

3) G. SCIARA (a cura di), Quale politica dopo il virus? Concetti politici alla luce della pandemia, Milano, Mimesis, 2023 [in corsi di stampa] (le voci indicate a lezione);


One text to be chosen in the following list:

1) M. NUSSBAUM, Creare capacità: liberarsi dalla dittatura del Pil, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2012 in aggiunta a M. NUSSBAUM, Giustizia sociale e dignità umana: da individui a persone, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2020;

2) J. RAWLS, Liberalismo politico, Torino, Einaudi, 2012.

3) A. SEN, L'idea di giustizia, Milano, Mondadori, 2010.


Optional reading:

Y. MOUNK, Popolo vs democrazia: dalla cittadinanza alla dittatura elettorale, Milano, Feltrinelli, 2018.

Additional materials may be assigned during the course.

Teaching methods

The course consists of 20 classes of two hours each for a total of 40 hours.
The course involves both face-to-face teaching and the active participation of students in classroom discussions. The lecturer may possibly provide for short oral presentations by students in the classroom on specific topics and texts.

Assessment methods

The final examination consists of an oral interview on the three parts of the course, aimed at assessing the critical and methodological skills acquired by the student in the analysis and critical evaluation of the conceptual issues and problems addressed during the course. The student will have to demonstrate not only that he/she has an overview of the topics tackled, but also that he/she is able to deal specifically with the texts studied and analysed during the course. During the oral interview, the student's ability to express him/herself in a specific language and to be able to argue their positions with mastery will also be assessed.

Office hours

See the website of Giuseppe Sciara