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POL8071 : The Moral Limits of the Market: Theory and Public Policy

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Nicola Mulkeen
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


1. To provide students with a thorough knowledge of the moral concerns that bear on when markets are and are not a justifiable form of economic organisation.

2. To equip students with the skills necessary to think systematically and critically about the political significance of market practices that test the moral boundaries and to sharpen their skills of written and oral argumentation.

3. To provide students with the opportunity to combine theoretical knowledge of contested markets with practical skills to tackle a real-world policy issue of their own choosing.

4. To demonstrate the interplay between moral and empirical considerations when it comes to assessing, proposing, and recommending policies.

5. Help students to draw their own conclusions regarding the moral limits of markets and the relationship of these limits to specific practical public policy issues.

6. To refine students’ analytical skills in evaluating policy implications and effectiveness within the complex interplay of market forces and regulatory environments.

Outline Of Syllabus

This module examines the moral issues that arise in the use of markets as a form of economic organisation, giving particular attention to the limits of markets and exploring why some goods and services should not be for sale or purchase. The module is split into two parts.

The first part of the module considers arguments from literature in political philosophy and economic ethics in support of markets, such as appeals to efficiency, innovation, and prosperity, and in objection to the expansion of market logic into various spheres of social life, such as concerns around exploitation, commodification, and inequality. It illuminates these arguments by investigating their bearing on a range of contested markets, asking questions such as: Should states allow markets in organs, commercial surrogacy, and sex? Should consumers boycott goods made in sweatshops or sports events funded by countries that violate human rights and what are the duties of multinational companies on these issues? How do digital platforms, artificial intelligence, and technological development affect what constitutes fair employment? What is a just intellectual property regime and how should states regulate and distribute pharmaceutical innovation?

The second part of the module provides students with the opportunity to combine theoretical knowledge of contested markets with practical skills to tackle real-world policy issues of their choosing. Students will learn to identify policy issues relating to contested markets, situate them within the relevant academic literature, develop a policy brief to address these issues, and learn to convey arguments to stakeholders through a process of peer feedback and engagement.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion1178:00178:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching112:0022:00Seminars
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The teaching methods are grounded in active and participatory learning and are intended to bridge the gap between theoretical understanding of contested markets and practical applications. The first part of the module involves setting research and reading activities to connect students with literature that elaborates moral ideas about the defence and limits of markets, providing them with an insight to the core knowledge aims of the module. Small group teaching fosters an environment for deep discussion, critical thinking, and collaborative learning. The second part of the module simulates the practical contexts in which policy analysts operate. This approach is designed to encourage students to engage deeply with the material from part one of the module, apply their knowledge to complex cases, and develop the nuanced communication skills essential for effective policy advocacy and stakeholder engagement.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M501 x 1500-word essay
Portfolio1A502000-word written portfolio exercise
Zero Weighted Pass/Fail Assessments
Description When Set Comment
Oral PresentationAN/A
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The mix of an essay, presentation, and portfolio allows students to demonstrate their understanding and skills in a variety of formats. The essay assessment directs students to undertake research into literature on the moral limits of markets and allows them the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of these issues and their skills in written argument. Presentations encourage students to articulate complex ideas succinctly and engagingly and cultivate a professional environment of constructive dialogue and collaboration. The portfolio encourages precision in students' thought processes, reflecting the conciseness required for policy briefs and other policy-related writing. The weighting of these assessments is designed to build students’ confidence and competence in policy analysis.

Reading Lists