LAW 2561 - The Politics of Law

North Terrace Campus - Semester 1 - 2017

This course surveys some of the canonical texts and major themes of political theory and law. The texts we will study are by Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, Duncan Kennedy and Judith Butler. We will consider a range of problems, including the nature of modern power; equality and liberty; the relationship between political, social, and economic life; the problem of the emancipation and enfranchisement of marginal or subordinated groups; and some of the subterranean forces that contour political life and motivate its inhabitants. We will also be attentive to the ways these texts etch a relationship between democracy, empire and colonialism. Still, these texts are so intellectually rich and vast that you will undoubtedly be drawn to themes in addition to those listed above, and you are welcome to raise and develop these interests during the course.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code LAW 2561
    Course The Politics of Law
    Coordinating Unit Adelaide Law School
    Term Semester 1
    Level Undergraduate Law (LLB)
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 3 hours a week
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange Y
    Prerequisites LAW 1501, LAW 1502, LAW 1503, LAW 1504
    Course Description This course surveys some of the canonical texts and major themes of political theory and law. The texts we will study are by Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, Duncan Kennedy and Judith Butler. We will consider a range of problems, including the nature of modern power; equality and liberty; the relationship between political, social, and economic life; the problem of the emancipation and enfranchisement of marginal or subordinated groups; and some of the subterranean forces that contour political life and motivate its inhabitants. We will also be attentive to the ways these texts etch a relationship between democracy, empire and colonialism. Still, these texts are so intellectually rich and vast that you will undoubtedly be drawn to themes in addition to those listed above, and you are welcome to raise and develop these interests during the course.
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Dr Peter Burdon

    Name: Associate Professor Peter Burdon
    Room: 3.28
    Phone: 83134446
    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    On successful completion of this course students will be able to:
    1. analyse the relationship between politics and law, undertake legal research with primary and secondary materials, and evaluate legal information;
    2. apply political theory to contemporary legal issues, and critique the operation of law from a policy perspective;
    3. structure and sustain concise and cohesive written and oral arguments for a legal audience;
    4. analyse law from a political perspective, including issues of race, gender and sexuality;
    5. develop an original topic of research for sustained reflection;
    6. apply critical thinking skills to a range of legal and political issues.
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)
    Deep discipline knowledge
    • informed and infused by cutting edge research, scaffolded throughout their program of studies
    • acquired from personal interaction with research active educators, from year 1
    • accredited or validated against national or international standards (for relevant programs)
    Critical thinking and problem solving
    • steeped in research methods and rigor
    • based on empirical evidence and the scientific approach to knowledge development
    • demonstrated through appropriate and relevant assessment
    Teamwork and communication skills
    • developed from, with, and via the SGDE
    • honed through assessment and practice throughout the program of studies
    • encouraged and valued in all aspects of learning
    Career and leadership readiness
    • technology savvy
    • professional and, where relevant, fully accredited
    • forward thinking and well informed
    • tested and validated by work based experiences
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    All required readings and resources for this course will be provided free of charge from the Digital Resources Management Centre.
    Recommended Resources
    A list of recommended readings will be made available through My Uni. My Uni will also feature a page of links to useful internet resources and news articles. These will be particularly helpful in locating material on contemporary legal and political issues that are relevant to the course.
    Online Learning

    The course is supported by the ‘Politics of Law’ MyUni website. The website contains links to the following resources:

    1. Course information, including the Course Profile and the seminar and lecture guide.
    2. Course materials – such as items of assessment, lecture PowerPoint slides, and other course materials which will be posted from time to time.
    3. Lectures – audio streaming of lectures and video streaming of lecture slides will be posted (where available) under the Course Materials link as soon as possible after each lecture.
    4. Discussion Board – This is available for students to discuss the course amongst themselves and to communicate with the course coordinator in relation to administrative or substantive questions about the course.
    5. Grade book – where students’ grades will be entered for each assignment.

    MyUni will also be used to post announcements, and assignment tasks. Students are expected to check MyUni regularly to keep up to date with these materials and additional learning resources throughout the course.

    Students should also regularly check their email

  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    The course is taught through a one hour lecture and a two hour discussion tutorial each week. Lectures and tutorials commence in the first week of semester one. Both the lecture and seminar will take place in the same venue with a break at each hour or as required.

    The lectures will provide an introduction to the issue we are dealing with that week. Sometimes the lecture will consist of a close reading of the materials for the week: at others it will range more broadly and may include extracts from a documentary. Although it is a lecture, it will be run, in part, in seminar mode: ie the lecturer will be asking questions and inviting comments along the way.

    It is essential that participants have done the week’s reading before attending the lecture/seminar. Doing the readings before class will help to introduce you to the concepts and concerns for the week, and the lecture will then help to clarify these further. The seminar is your opportunity to discuss the materials with your colleagues, to examine the issues that you find most interesting, and explore the concepts you are having the most difficulty with. To this end, I intend to facilitate a wide-ranging exploration of the week’s material and be directed by the interests and concerns of the class.

    It is recommended that you take notes as you do your readings. This will help you clarify issues as you go along. You might want to take notes on what you think the argument being made is; whether you find the argument plausible and why; and how the argument might relate to current political events. Not everything in an article is central to the argument, so a crucial part of taking notes is identifying what you think are the central arguments. It is a good idea to write down one particular question that is the most pressing or interesting for you: it could, for example, be something that bothers you about the author's analysis, a concept or argument that you think needs clarification. This will help you contribute to the tutorials and make them a lively and interesting learning experience.

    Lectures will be audio-streamed (technology permitting) and PowerPoint slides supporting the lecture will be available prior to the lecture.

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    In taking this course students are expected to attend 12 hours of lectures and 24 hours of seminars. To get the most from this course, it is essential that students spend time doing the readings, taking notes and thinking about the issues. Students should expect to spend 6-7 hours per week doing this. Approximately 10-15 hours should be spent on the research proposal and 30-50 hours should be spent on the research essay.
    Learning Activities Summary
    Week One The Learning Environment and an Introduction to Critical Thinking
    Week Two Liberalism
    Week Three Liberalism
    Week Four Liberalism
    Week Five Conservatism
    Week Six Conservatism
    Week Seven Conservatism
    Week Eight Marxism
    Week Nine Marxism
    Week Ten Critical Legal Studies
    Week Eleven Feminist Theory
    Week Twelve Queer Theory
    Week Thirteen Optional Teaching Week
    NB: Summary is preliminary and subject to change.
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    This course contains four pieces of assessment:

    Assessment Type
    % of Final Mark Due Date
    Class Participation 10
    Research Presentation 10 Scheduled in consultation with co-ordinator
    Research Proposal 20 Friday, 7 April, 2pm.
    Research Paper 60 Friday, 9 June, 2pm

    Assessment Detail

    Class Participation (10%)

    The class participation mark is comprised of attendance, level of preparation and contribution during the seminar component of the course. There is no minimum attendance requirement but a significant lapse in attendance will adversly impact this grade.

    Research Presentation (10%, 3 minutes)

    Beginning in week four students will be scheduled to give a 3 minute presentation on their research topic (modelled on the 3MT concept). This presentation should provide an overview of the specific research question, the crisis which is being addressed and why the topic is important for investigation. Where possible, the presentation should be interactive and perhaps make use of the AV equipment and handouts. At the conclusion of the presentation, there will be a brief Q/A session where classmates will have the opportunity to ask questions about the research topic and offer suggestions for the project.

    Research Proposal (20%, 1000 words)

    This is a proposal for your research paper. It should be no more than 1000 words and should include a specific research question; discussion of the research topic; a preliminary list of research resources, including a description (annotated bibliography) of at least 5 relevant articles, cases or books. Please note that research papers will be required to engage with two or more of the of the political theories we are discussing in class. Students should keep that in mind when preparing thier proposal.

    Essay proposals will also be separately considered by the course coordinator for approval as the topic which will form the basis of the major research essay component of the assessment. It is each student’s responsibility to develop an acceptable research topic. This may require reworking of the submitted essay proposal. Students are encouraged to consider potential research topics and to discuss these topics with the course coordinator (in person, by telephone discussion or via email communication) early in the course, so as to avoid problems.

    Research Paper (60%, 4000 words)

    For the major essay, students will undertake a substantial amount of independent research that follows on from their research proposal and presentation. The research essay will be no more that 4,000 words long (excluding title page information and bibliography). The word count does not include references, headings etc. Because research topics will usually have been discussed with individual students before approval, in practice this will not be an anonymous assessment. Please use the AGLC 3rd for style and referencing.

    The skills that are of central importance for this essay include: The ability to provide argument and critical thinking skills; The ability to fairly reconstruct a position and argument in regard to a particular issue; and the ability to express your own thoughts and reason and argue about the material that you are addressing (this is your argument or considered judgment). For this reason, I will ask student to consider their issue through the lense of two or more of the political theories we will be discussing in class.


    Your research proposal and essay must be submitted electronically to Turnitin, a software program that checks for plagiarism. Instructions on submitting your essay to Turnitin will be distributed on MyUni.

    Late Submission: 5% of the total mark possible will be deducted for every 24 hours or part thereof that it is late, including each day on a weekend. For example, an essay that is submitted after the due date and time but within the first 24 hour period, and that has been graded at 63%, will have 5% deducted, for a final grade of 58%. An essay that is more than 24 hours late will lose 10%, etc. Hard copy submissions made after 5.00pm on a Friday will be assumed to have been submitted on the next business day and will be penalised accordingly.

    Word Length: Assignments which exceed the allocated length (word length or page limit) will be subject to a penalty of 5% of total marks possible per 100 words or part thereof (ie with a word limit of 3,000, an essay graded 63% will have 5% deducted if it is 3001 words long, for a final grade of 58%, 10% if it is 3101 words long, etc). Words are calculated including all footnotes and headings within the text but excluding cover page information. Quotations and all referencing information are included in the word count.


    Extensions beyond the due date are generally only granted in the case of serious and unforeseen incapacity. If you require an extension, you will need to use the on-line application form available on the law school website ( as soon as you are aware of the need for an extension, and before the due date of the assignment. The course coordinator will reply by email, determining whether an extension is warranted, what evidence is required to verify the student’s incapacity, and the length of the extension. Evidence of the incapacity must be submitted with the assignment, and must be consistent with details in the email requesting the extension.

    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

    Approval of Results by Board of Examiners
    Students are reminded that all assessment results are subject to approval (and possible  moderation/change) by the Law School’s Board of Examiners. Assessment  results at the University are not scaled. Under the Assessment for Coursework Programs Policy, students are assessed ‘by reference to their performance against pre-determined criteria and standards … and not by ranking against the performance of the student cohort in the course’. However, under that same policy, the Board of Examiners (as the relevant Assessment Review Committee for courses at Adelaide Law School) is  required to ‘ensure comparability of standards and consistency’ in assessment. On occasions, the Board of Examiners will form the view that some moderation is required to ensure the comparability of standards and consistency across courses and years, and accordingly provide fairness to all law students. All assessment results are therefore subject to approval (and possible change) until confirmed by the Board of Examiners and posted on Acess Adelaide at the end of each semester.
  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy ( course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

  • Student Support
    The University Writing Centre provides academic learning and language development services and resources for local, international, undergraduate and postgraduate coursework students enrolled at the University of Adelaide.

    The centre offers practical advice and strategies for students to master reading, writing, note-taking, time management, oral presentation skills, referencing techniques and exam preparation for success at university through seminars, workshops and individual consultations.

    For more information please check out the Writing Centre website at  

    Lex Salus Program

    Lex Salus was founded in 2013 by Adelaide Law School Wellbeing officers Ms Corinne Walding, Ms Kellie Toole and Dr Mark Giancaspro. Lex Salus is an initiative of the Adelaide Law School aimed at raising law student awareness of the importance of mental, physical and nutritional health across all year levels of the degree, and of the various counselling, disability and equity services both within and outside the University that can provide help. Research shows that law students, both in Australia and in many jurisdictions around the world, experience the highest levels of stress, anxiety and depression out of any other discipline. Many do not get enough sleep, maintain a healthy diet or achieve a realistic work/life balance. Making matters worse, they are unwilling or afraid to speak up for fear of feeling 'weak' or because of the negative stigma that attaches to seeking help. Lex Salus is dedicated to tackling these problems head-on.

    Counselling Service

    The University Counselling Service provides a free and confidential service to all enrolled students. We encourage you to contact the Counselling service on 8313 5663 to make an appointment to deal with any issues that may be affecting your study and life. More information is available at
  • Policies & Guidelines

    This section contains links to relevant assessment-related policies and guidelines - all university policies.

    Further information regarding the Law School Policies and Procedures in relation to Supplementary Assessment, Extensions, and Remarks etc can be found at: 

    Plagiarism and other forms of cheating

    Plagiarism is a serious act of academic misconduct. All students must be familiar with the Adelaide Law School Enrolment Guide, and should note in particular the sections relating to plagiarism, grievance procedures and academic conduct within the Law School and the University.

    Plagiarism is a serious matter and is treated as such by the Law School and the University. Please be aware that “academic dishonesty” (which goes beyond plagiarism) can be a ground for a refusal by the Supreme Court of South Australia to refuse to admit a person to practice as a legal practitioner in South Australia.

    Academic honesty is an essential aspect of ethical and honest behaviour, which is central to the practice of the law and an understanding of what it is to be a lawyer.
  • Fraud Awareness

    Students are reminded that in order to maintain the academic integrity of all programs and courses, the university has a zero-tolerance approach to students offering money or significant value goods or services to any staff member who is involved in their teaching or assessment. Students offering lecturers or tutors or professional staff anything more than a small token of appreciation is totally unacceptable, in any circumstances. Staff members are obliged to report all such incidents to their supervisor/manager, who will refer them for action under the university's student’s disciplinary procedures.

The University of Adelaide is committed to regular reviews of the courses and programs it offers to students. The University of Adelaide therefore reserves the right to discontinue or vary programs and courses without notice. Please read the important information contained in the disclaimer.