This course is discontinued

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

The course is an introduction to modern theories of justice in the distribution of income and other economic goods.

The subject of social justice, being a normative one, was for many years not considered suitable for academic research. The appearance in 1971 of John Rawls: A Theory of Justice in 1971 changed the prevailing academic climate. Since then, a steady stream of papers and books have appeared. The course will make the student acquainted with the most important modern schools of thought.

We will discuss, in particular, the foundation and consequences of modern utilitarianism and economic welfare theory; John Rawls's theory of the social contract; Amartya Sen's capability approach ; libertarianism as propounded by Robert Nozick.

We will also attempt to analyse, and give content to, notions like equality of opportunity, equality of outcome, economic rewards according to deserts.

Economic rights for women and children will be given more emphasis than in standard textbooks. We will in particular study Martha Nussbaum's proposal of universal rights for women.

The course is not addressed especially to students of economics, but will fit into degrees in e.g. political science and sociology. It is particularly suitable for students of Public administration (Offentlig administrasjon og ledelse), Development economics and Gender studies (Kjønn, feminisme og likestilling).

Learning outcome

You should know

  • the main modern theories of distributive justice: in particular, the theories of John Rawls and Amartya Sen, utilitarianism and economic welfare theory.

You should be able to

  • address systematically some important contemporary issues concerned with justice in distribution. Do successful leaders deserve large bonuses? Is it morally defensible to cut back pensions in order to promote economic growth? To what extent should the poor be accounted responsible for their situation?

You should be able to

  • follow economic reasoning related to the course, for instance when reading professional reports
  • recognize the difference between well founded knowledge and weakly founded opinions


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

Students enrolled in other Master's Degree Programmes can, on application, be admitted to the course if this is cleared by their own study programme.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.

Only students admitted to the course may take part in instruction and tuition and sit for the examination.


Formal prerequisite knowledge

Bachelor degree in Economics, or equivalent. Students with minimum requirements for entrance to higher education in Norway, may register for ECON3270 Distributive Justice

Overlapping courses


The course will be taught in English unless all participants are Norwegian speakers.

Lectures: 2 hours per week throughout the semester.

Seminars: 2 hours per week through parts of the semester.

There might occur weeks exempt from teaching.


A 3-hour written school exam at the end of the semester.

Examination support material

Students may use dictionaries at this exam. Dictionaries must be handed in before the examination. Please read regulations for dictionaries permitted at the examination.

Language of examination

The problem set will be given in English and Norwegian. Answers can be given in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or in English. See § 5.4 i Forskrift om studier og eksamener ved Universitetet i Oslo .

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

The Department of Economics has passed following resolution for ECON-courses: It will no longer be possible for candidates to register for an exam in a lower level course after having passed exams in intermediate and advanced level courses in the same subject area (also where there are no pre-requisites that apply to the intermediate course).

Students who might wish to retake the exam later, are not guaranteed that the course is ever repeated with a similar reading list, nor that the exam arrangement will be the same.

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

A periodic evaluation of ECON3270/ECON4270 – Distributive Justice (discontinued) was conducted during autum term 2009. A Norwegian version of the evaluation report that was compiled on the basis of the information retrieved from the evaluation, can be found here


ECON3270 – Distributive Justice (discontinued)is the course code for registration for lecture, seminar and exam for the bachelor's students. ECON4270 – Distributive Justice (discontinued) is the course code for the master's students.

Facts about this course






Spring 2013


Spring 2013

Teaching language

Norwegian (English on request)