Monday, April 27, 2015

Thom Brooks & Martha C. Nussbaum (eds), Rawls's Political Liberalism (2015) [UPDATE]

Rawls's Political Liberalism, ed. by Thom Brooks & Martha C. Nussbaum. New York: Columbia University Press, 2015. 224 pages


Widely hailed as one of the most significant works in modern political philosophy, John Rawls's Political Liberalism (1993) defended a powerful vision of society that respects reasonable ways of life, both religious and secular. These core values have never been more critical as anxiety grows over political and religious difference and new restrictions are placed on peaceful protest and individual expression.

This anthology of original essays suggests new, groundbreaking applications of Rawls's work in multiple disciplines and contexts.  Thom Brooks, Martha Nussbaum, Onora O'Neill (University of Cambridge), Paul Weithman (University of Notre Dame), Jeremy Waldron (New York University), and Frank Michelman (Harvard University) explore political liberalism's relevance to the challenges of multiculturalism, the relationship between the state and religion, the struggle for political legitimacy, and the capabilities approach. Extending Rawls's progressive thought to the fields of law, economics, and public reason, this book helps advance the project of a free society that thrives despite disagreements over religious and moral views.

About the Author

Thom Brooks is professor of law and government at Durham University. He is the author of Punishment and founding editor of the Journal of Moral Philosophy. He has edited several collections, including The Legacy of John Rawls and The Global Justice Reader.

Martha C. Nussbaum is Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago. Her principal appointments are in the Philosophy Department and the Law School. Her books include Frontiers of Justice, Creating Capabilities, Political Emotions, and Anger and Forgiveness.

Contents [preview]

Preface - Thom Brooks & Martha C. Nussbaum

Introduction - Martha C. Nussbaum

1. Changing Constructions - Onora O'Neill

2. Legitimacy and the Project of Political Liberalism [pdf] - Paul Weithman

3. Isolating Public Reasons - Jeremy Waldron

4. The Capabilities Approach and Political Liberalism - Thom Brooks

5. The Priority of Liberty - Frank I. Michelman
"The center-piece is Nussbaum's "Introduction" which is the best of its kind - clear, wide-ranging and insightful. The other chapters, all by leading theorists, make distinctive and important contributions. Some remain close to the text while others explore broader implications of Rawls's approach, but all significantly advance our understanding of what Nussbaum rightly calls "one of the most important works of political philosophy of the twentieth century."
" — Jon Mandle, University at Albany, State University of New York

"Rawls's Political Liberalism includes essays by distinguished and well-known philosophers and theorists. Martha Nussbaum's introduction is an excellent survey of main themes of Political Liberalism and of the philosophical discussion of it. The other essays, all of them up-to-date, are of very high quality. The essays range across a wide variety of philosophically interesting topics (most of them topics with a nice trail of discussion in the secondary literature, amply commented on in the treatments provided in the various chapters). One main focus of the book is on the myriad ways in which overlapping consensus and political stability (operating together on a terrain of moral pluralism) work together. The book makes a strong and compelling case for the enduring philosophical significance of Political Liberalism." — Rex Martin, University of Kansas

"The contributors to this jewel of a collection reveal that there remains much to learn by engaging with Rawls's Political Liberalism. By querying the potential international reach of political liberalism, probing its capacity to account for constitutional and legal arrangements, and reexamining its appeal to conceptions of the good, they bring to light new aspects of its depth." — Henry S. Richardson, Georgetown University

"These essays by leading political, moral, and legal theorists provide significant interpretations and reassessments of the central ideas of Rawls's Political Liberalism. For example, Martha Nussbaum's introduction is a real service, a "must read" particularly for those new to the field. Frank Michelman's essay is the best work of its kind on the Constitutional specification of the basic liberties. And Jeremy Waldron presents significant new challenges to the idea of public reason. Highly recommended." — Samuel Freeman, University of Pennsylvania

UPDATE: Anyone who uses the promo code “BRORAW” to buy the book from Columbia UP website will receive a 30% discount off the price of the book

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Readers will know I've been working on the general election campaign as digital comms lead for Phil Wilson's re-election campaign. He's been MP for Sedgefield since 2007 -- Tony Blair previously held this seat.

If you're on Facebook, then go on and 'like' his campaign page HERE.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Why Hegel Matters

. . . is the title of my public lecture this Wednesday at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Further details found here.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The marginals that matter in the North East

. . . is the name of my new column for The Journal daily newspaper READ MORE HERE.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Press releases by Migration Watch UK & Thom Brooks - spot the difference?

My 2014 research briefing on SNP immigration policy raising concerns HERE.

Migration Watch UK press release last week raising concerns HERE.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

PRESS RELEASE: Government cuts to blame for migration impact on public services

The UK Government must provide urgent funding to help reduce the impact of migration on public services, according to a Durham University expert.

Professor Thom Brooks, in Durham Law School, called for the return of the Migration Impacts Fund launched in 2009, which was discontinued by the Coalition Government after the 2010 general election.

Last year immigration rose to 298,000. The Office for National Statistics linked its rise to increasing migration from within the EU (43,000) and non-EU (49,000).

Professor Brooks, who is a Professor of Law and Government as well as a Labour Party member, said: “The Migration Impacts Fund helped support about £70m over two years by introducing a levy on immigration applications. It was neither funded by taxpayers or the European Union and it provided an invaluable source of new funding to reduce migration-related pressures on local services, covering a range of programmes including English language training, extra support teachers and improving emergency services.

“The Coalition Government stopped support for the fund because it found it ‘ineffective’ (1), but did not replace it with an alternative. The extra income generated was diverted to other Government spending programmes.

“The problem is that the Government is now forced to find money elsewhere for a programme that should have never been scrapped.”

In his research briefing, Professor Brooks claims an extra £11.7m could be created by a new £25 levy on immigration applications that could be used to support efforts to reduce migration-related impact.

Professor Brooks added: “The Government’s poor management of asylum applications led to cities like Middlesbrough receiving almost 50 per cent more asylum seekers than recommended in guidelines (2).

“This forced the Government to provide new funding to reduce unnecessary strain on local public services. The problem can be avoided by relaunching a fund that should have never been scrapped.

“A small levy on application fees could raise new funding to provide urgent support without increasing costs for hard working taxpayers and improving public services for all.”

The funding raised can then go to where it is needed most. The Government’s new migration ‘health surcharge’ starting on Monday does not. Brooks says: “Applicants pay a fee upfront, but the funds raised do not follow them if they move within the UK and directed to health care alone. The Migration Impacts Reduction Fund would more effectively target services and better track need.” The Government has chosen to launch the surcharge after Parliament dissolved, but before the general election in what Brooks describes as pure electioneering.






(1)  The Guardian, “Fund to ease impact of immigration scrapped by stealth”, 6 August 2010:

(2)  Daily Mirror, “Middlesbrough revealed as England's asylum seeker capital, with 982 making the town their home”, 8 October 2014: & Evening Gazette, “Middlesbrough has largest proportion of asylum seekers of anywhere in England”, 8 October 2014:


Martha Nussbaum on "Transnational Anger"

. . . is her new Open Access article for the first issue of the Journal of the American Philosophical Association. Highly recommended (and delighted to see she cites my book Punishment, too)! READ MORE HERE.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Phil Wilson launched his re-election campaign surrounded by local supporters

Phil Wilson launched his re-election campaign surrounded by local supporters with the opening of his new campaign centre in Newton Aycliffe’s town centre.

Phil Wilson launched his re-election campaign surrounded by local supporters with the opening of his new campaign centre in Newton Aycliffe’s town centre.

He says: “It is an honour to serve as the MP for the community in which I live. I have lived here all my life. My children went to local schools here. My father was a coal miner for many years here. My mother was born in Fishburn. My local roots run deep. I am Labour's local man.  

That is why I share the aspirations and ambitions of local people. I want to see our young people get on and go as far as they can in education or at work.

I have worked very hard for the people of Newton Aycliffe and the wider Sedgefield constituency. I led the campaign to ensure Hitachi brought their train-building factory to the area, when the Conservative-led Government wanted to abandon the plan. By working together with other partners, we were successful against the odds in securing the factory and with it hundreds of good jobs for local people. 

I have worked to achieve fairer decisions on public and school transport.  I have campaigned successfully to see the Town Centre redeveloped which has seen significant improvements. I am continuing to work alongside the town centre management and other partners to strengthen the retail offer. I have fought against Eon's plan for a massive wind farm near Bradbury, Mordon and Chilton.

I have sought to be a strong voice for Sedgefield on many issues that are important to my constituency; speaking up on housing and rogue private landlords, exploitative employment practices, transport, manufacturing and the future of County Durham.

I've worked with schools across the constituency and I am a big supporter of the NHS, free at the point of need. I am a strong supporter of local business, the police and our armed forces. But most importantly I speak up for individuals and their families. I may not always receive the answer they want, but I will always try. That is why I run a fully staffed constituency office that has helped thousands of people.  

I want to continue to serve all of the people of Sedgefield constituency as their member of Parliament and I really hope that they will vote for me either by post or at the ballot box on May 7th.

My campaign centre will be open to the public, Monday – Friday 10.30 – 3.30 pm. Either myself or someone from my campaign team will be on hand to answer questions about my campaign, about Labour’s policies, about political and local issues, and about the wider general election campaign.  We have tea and coffee on hand so I really do encourage anyone to come in and have a chat and a cuppa.”

Phil’s new campaign centre is located at 37 Beveridge Way in Newton Aycliffe’s town centre. For more information, please contact

Health surcharge for migrants 'is full of loopholes', says expert

. . . is the title of my latest piece quoted in today's The Northern Echo. READ MORE HERE.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

UK citizenship test group don't appear to know what is on the test

Surprising comment from the official Life in the United Kingdom citizenship test. It's often playful tweets about events and issues in the UK citizenship test took a bad turn today. Readers were asked about Palm Sunday, but Palm Sunday receives no mention in the test handbook - and so not on any test.

Yet another example of my concern that the test requires urgent reforms - and by individuals like myself that know the test (and have sat and passed it). See my comprehensive report on the test and the changes needed HERE.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Phil Wilson MP -

I'm represented in Westminster by Phil Wilson, a brilliant Member of Parliament and proud to be his friend. Phil is MP for the Sedgefield constituency - and politicos reading this blog will know the previous MP was Tony Blair. Blair's father Leo taught at Durham Law School where I work now. Check out Phil's new website HERE (

Expect posts from the campaign train as the general election kicks off next week!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

"New migrant ‘health surcharge’ – an election stunt full of loopholes"

. . . is the title of my most recent piece for LabourList, the leading Labour Party blog. I expose serious failing with how the surcharge works - and what we should support instead. READ MORE HERE.

"Overseas students’ health surcharge is ‘full of loopholes’"

. . . is the headline from Times Higher Education. It highlights the problems I've revealed with the government's migrant 'health surcharge' to launch early next month. READ MORE HERE.

"Efforts to make migrants speak English a dog's dinner, says US-born Durham academic"

. . . is the headline for a great piece in Friday's The Northern Echo about the serious problems I've exposed in the coalition government's English language requirements for migrants. READ MORE HERE.

Friday, March 20, 2015

English language requirements for migrants inadequate


English language requirements for migrants inadequate

Government attempts to tighten English language requirements for migrants are inadequate, according to a Durham University immigration expert. Professor Thom Brooks at Durham Law School argues that the government has failed to ensure new British citizens have satisfactory English skills.

Migrants wanting to apply for permanent residency or citizenship used to be able to pass the controversial ‘Life in the United Kingdom’ citizenship test to prove sufficient knowledge of English. The government stopped this practice and imposed new requirements aimed at raising the level of English proficiency all new migrants must satisfy to live and work permanently in the UK.

Professor Brooks claims the new government policy has too many loopholes that should never have been allowed. He says: ‘The government has made a dog’s dinner of making migrants prove knowledge of English. Expired out-of-date qualifications are accepted as proof under the new rules. Earning a degree from an overseas institution is satisfactorily only requiring the foreign college or university confirms the degree was taught in English – their word is taken at face value. This must change’.

There are currently over a dozen exemptions based on nationality, education, age, physical or mental condition, widows or widowers and highly skilled migrants. Applicants can also be exempt if from one of a list of about 17 listed countries, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States, but also Belize. Countries like Singapore and South Africa are excluded. The government provides no rationale for why listed countries make the cut: they do not include all countries where English is the official or majority language.

Professor Brooks says: ‘Not every US citizen is a fluent English speaker. Foreign nationality is not a satisfactory test for knowledge of English. The government should close the door on unnecessary loopholes and support a standard English test. This will better improve and maintain standards while providing crucial income for English language services under increasing strain’.

Professor Brooks is known as a leading authority on UK immigration law and policy. He published the only comprehensive report on the UK citizenship test calling it ‘unfit for purpose’ and ‘like a bad pub quiz’ that made headlines worldwide. He is originally from the US and became a British citizen in 2011.



Further reading

Thom Brooks, The ‘Life in the United Kingdom’ Citizenship Test: Is It Unfit for Purpose? Durham: Durham University, 2013
·         Video launch:

Home Office, ‘Prove your knowledge of English for citizenship and settling’ (29 December 2014)

Home Office, ‘Knowledge of language and life in the UK for settlement and naturalisation: Statement of intent, changes to the requirement from October 2013’ (October 2013)

*TV and radio broadcast facilities available*


Professor Thom Brooks, Professor of Law and Government, in Durham Law School, Durham University, is available for comment and ISDN line is available. Telephone: +44 (0) 191 334 4365 (Office) OR EMAIL


New migrant 'health surcharge' an election stunt full of loopholes

New migrant ‘health surcharge’ an election stunt full of loopholes
The government announced today that migrants will be subject to a new ‘health surcharge’. The fee comes into effect next month. The surcharge is £200 per year payable upfront with students required to pay £150 annually.
Thom Brooks, Professor of Law and Government at Durham University, argues the health surcharge is an election stunt full of loopholes. The policy begins on 6 April – a week after Parliament is expected to dissolve and during a national election campaign. Brooks says:
“Government rhetoric fails to meet reality. The public are told the surcharge will offset the costs to the NHS from treating migrants. However, thousands of migrants will not need to pay because of several exemptions and restrictions. It’s a clear case of government saying one thing, but doing another.”
The health surcharge will only be imposed on non-EEA citizens in the UK temporarily for more than 6 months. EEA citizens from Europe are unaffected. There are 11 different exemptions from the surcharge include anyone visiting the UK for under six months, intra-company transfers, children under 18 years in care, and nationals of Australia and New Zealand.
Professor Brooks has concerns that the funding raised may not be used effectively: ‘Migrants paying the surcharge must do so upfront and the money collected is distributed to the relevant health department in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. The problem is that migrants don’t always stay in the same place. If a migrant moves from England to Wales, the funding raised by the surcharge does not appear to follow the individual. This will mean the new funds might not go to the authorities that need it most’.
‘This health surcharge might not support the NHS in the way it has been announced. The government should stop seeing immigration as a political football and instead as a serious policy area that deserves more serious policymaking’.
Further reading
Home Office, ‘Migrant “health surcharge” to raise £200 million a year’ (19 March 2015)
Home Office, ‘Immigration Surcharge: information for migrants’ (19 March 2015)

I can be contacted HERE (thom.brooks @

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Thom Brooks on Migration to the North East

Listen to my interview with BBC Radio Newcastle HERE (from 1.08).

Thursday, March 05, 2015

New! Citizenship & Immigration Policy Impact Website

.. .  is now live at Durham University Law School's new website. A great resource!