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  3. Democracy, Law and Civil Liberties

Democracy, Law and Civil Liberties (LAWS50118)

Graduate coursework level 5Points: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2018
Subject levelGraduate coursework Level 5
Subject codeLAWS50118
Availability(Quotas apply)
Semester 2
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

This subject will consider the complex challenges involved in regulating civil liberties in a democratic state. The subject will focus on the ways in which legal protection for civil liberties may enhance democracy.

The topics covered in this course include:

  • A theoretical framework of democracy and civil liberties;
  • How the law protects liberty and democracy; and
  • How the law regulates fundamental freedoms and political rights such as:
    • citizen participation in elections;
    • freedom of expression in a democracy;
    • freedoms of assembly and protest;
    • freedom of association; and
    • equality and non-discrimination rights.

Case law from Australia and the United States concerning specific examples of the conflict between the protection of civil liberties and government policy will be examined. Case studies will include government leaks and the right of citizens to be informed about state activities, how government control of protest and dissent limits political participation, and the banning of political organisations in the name of state security. These case studies will consider the tensions between freedom and democracy, and the way law both protects and restricts civil liberties.

The subject will adopt an interdisciplinary and comparative approach by drawing upon literature in political philosophy, political science and historical studies. The subject canvasses competing conceptions of liberty, equality and democracy, aiming to critically analyse law’s regulation of civil liberties in a democratic context.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this subject, students will have demonstrated an advanced and integrated understanding of:

The operation of, and tensions in, civil liberties law;

  • The historical, comparative and jurisprudential scholarship of civil liberties;
  • The complex legal framework and principles regulating civil liberties in Australia and comparable jurisdictions; and
  • How different regimes protecting civil liberties respond to particular kinds of factual situations.

Students will have drawn on this understanding to:

  • Critically analyse and reflect on the relevant legal principles, and apply those principles to address complex problems in Australia and internationally;
  • Develop an advanced appreciation of the impact of constitutional and legal principles on the freedoms of the individual and different groups within society; and
  • Communicate their analysis in appropriate scholarly and professional formats.

Generic skills

On completion of the subject students will have developed and demonstrated:

  • An advanced and integrated knowledge of civil liberties, inclusive of a specialised understanding of its philosophical antecedents and political context;
  • Critical and independent thinking which demonstrates the capacity to analyse legal and political questions at a high level; including a synthesis of complex information; and making informed and context-sensitive judgments based on comparative case studies;
  • The ability to critically reflect on the law of civil liberties; and
  • The ability to apply an integrated understanding of, and expert judgment about, complex civil liberties questions to current case studies in Australia and North America.

Last updated: 29 March 2019