Thursday, September 27, 2012

Obama's new political campaign broadcast

. . . in Romney's own voice. Powerful and compelling.

My advice to David Cameron on how to improve the UK citizenship test

Readers may know that British Prime Minister David Cameron appeared on Late Show with David Letterman yesterday evening. Cameron is the first serving British PM to appear on the show. He was quizzed about questions appearing in the UK citizenship test and performed poorly.

If only the Prime Minister had listened to my advice (from 23 minutes) on BBC Radio 4 or read my piece on how the test may be reformed and improved, he might have performed much better...

The abstract for my "The British Citizenship Test: The Case for Reform":

Immigration presents a daunting challenge to successive British governments. The public ranks immigration as one of the leading policy issues after the economy and employment. There is also greater public support for stronger immigration controls than in many other countries. In response, government strategy has included the use of a citizenship test. While the citizenship test is widely acknowledged as one key part of immigration policy, the test has received surprisingly little critical analysis. This article is an attempt to bring greater attention to serious problems with the current test and to offer three recommendations for its revision and reform. First, there is a need to revise and update the citizenship test. Secondly, there is a need to expand the test to include questions about British history and basic law. The third recommendation is more wide-ranging: it is that we reconsider what we expect new citizens to know more broadly. The citizenship test should not be viewed as a barrier, but as a bridge. The focus should centre on what future citizens should be expected to know rather than how others might be excluded. The test should ensure that future citizens are suitably prepared for citizenship. There is an urgent need to improve the test and this should not be an opportunity wasted for the benefit of both citizens and future citizens alike.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Journal of Moral Philosophy - A New Beginning

Today is unlike most others. I have signed off on the final issue of the Journal of Moral Philosophy as its editor. I founded the JMP in 2003 after year long negotiations with several publishers and with the strong encouragement of old friends, Mark Bevir and Fabian Freyenhagen. The journal launched in 2004, turned quarterly in 2009 and will soon move to 6 issues per year from 2013.

The journal will also have a new editor in S. Matthew Liao, who I'm certain will do a magnificent job at moving the journal to much greater heights. I will remain as an associate editor and there will be a new management structure to be announced in a few months. A new beginning and the end of an era.

Nick Clegg - "The Apology Song"

The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg (Lib Dem), pledged "no more broken promises" during the 2010 general election. A key campaign promise was his Liberal Democrat Party's vow to scrap university tuition fees. After the election, Clegg and his party joined a coalition government with the Conservatives. One new policy agreed was that university tuition fees would remain...and the ceiling of about £3,100 would be raised to £9,000 per year. This broken campaign promise has done much to damage the party's popularity since.

Clegg recently released an apology statement meant to draw a line under this issue. It's hard to say whether or not it would have the desired effect, but one unpredictable result is that his statement has been transformed into a catchy new tune.



Now that we have videos about "The Real Mitt Romney" and another about George Osborne's "Don't Stop Me Now" - is this the future of politics to come?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Palgrave Ethics and Public Policy book series

The Palgrave Ethics and Public Policy book series will publish high quality scholarly research monographs and edited books aimed at academics and postgraduates. We welcome timely contributions from a broad range of disciplines and methodological approaches. The volumes in this series will explore the relation between ethics and public policy across a wide range of issues, including abortion, capital punishment, citizenship, climate change, drug offending, euthanasia, health care, immigration, multiculturalism, prostitution, and terrorism.

Interested authors should contact me directly me here. We hope to launch in 2013.

Support the Gendered Conference Campaign!

Details here.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Graduate Conference in Political Theory

Call for Papers (deadline January 11, 2013)

The Graduate Conference in Political Theory at Princeton University will be held from April 5-6, 2013.

The Committee for the Graduate Conference in Political Theory at Princeton University welcomes papers addressing any topic in political theory, political philosophy, or the history of political thought. Papers should be submitted via the conference website by January 11, 2013. Approximately six papers will be selected.

The conference offers graduate students from across institutions a unique opportunity to present and critique new work. Each session, led by a discussant from Princeton, focuses exclusively on one paper and features an extensive question and answer period with Princeton faculty and graduate students. Papers are pre-circulated among conference participants.

This year, the Committee proudly announces that Professor Jill Frank, University of South Carolina, will deliver the keynote address.
Submission Information:
• Due date: January 11, 2013
• How to submit: Submissions must be uploaded in PDF format to the conference website: http://politicaltheory.princeton.edu  
• Length: Papers should be approximately 7500 words. Papers exceeding 9000 words will not be considered.
• Format: Papers should be formatted for blind review by removing any identifying information from the document.

Papers will be refereed on a blind basis by political theory graduate students in the Department of Politics at Princeton. Acceptance notices will be sent in February. The authors of accepted papers will be expected to attend the duration of the two-day conference and participate in each session.

Assistance for invited participants' transportation, lodging and meal expenses is available from the Committee, which acknowledges the generous support of University Center for Human Values, the Department of Politics, and the Graduate School at Princeton University.

Questions and comments can be directed to: polthry@princeton.edu

For more information, please visit the conference website at http://politicaltheory.princeton.edu

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Is Mitt Romney a serious candidate?

Mitt Romney has faced much criticism since the start of his campaign to become US President. Many critics highlighted that they didn't know who the "real" Romney was as his positions seemed to adopt different 'nuances' from one prospective audience to the next. (This led to a YouTube sensation - to the music of Eminem - found here.)

These past - and major - gaffes have been spectacularly surpassed with new video footage of Romney telling supporters that 47% of American voters are moochers that pay no income tax and he won't try to win their votes. Perhaps the only thing even more outrageous than this is that - when he had the opportunity to reject the gaffe - he didn't. While he did think his comments were not elegantly stated and some context missing, he continued to stand by his remarks.

This has correctly received stinging criticism from all sides, including David Brooks (no relation!) in the New York Times here:

"[. . . ] This comment suggests a few things. First, it suggests that he really doesn’t know much about the country he inhabits. Who are these freeloaders? Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the V.A.? Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on Social Security or Medicare?


It suggests that Romney doesn’t know much about the culture of America. Yes, the entitlement state has expanded, but America remains one of the hardest-working nations on earth. Americans work longer hours than just about anyone else. Americans believe in work more than almost any other people. Ninety-two percent say that hard work is the key to success, according to a 2009 Pew Research Survey.

It says that Romney doesn’t know much about the political culture. Americans haven’t become childlike worshipers of big government. On the contrary, trust in government has declined. The number of people who think government spending promotes social mobility has fallen.

The people who receive the disproportionate share of government spending are not big-government lovers. They are Republicans. They are senior citizens. [. . .]."

Brooks concludes: "He’s running a depressingly inept presidential campaign. Mr. Romney, your entitlement reform ideas are essential, but when will the incompetence stop?"

Serious people across the political spectrum must ask themselves: is Mitt Romney a serious candidate? Thus far, the answer is a resounding no. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

British Citizenship: Time to Reform the Test

MOVING TO THE FRONT

I have recently published a new aticle on "The British Citizenship Test: The Case for Reform" appearing in The Political Quarterly here. The article is based upon both my research into citizenship tests and first hand experience of having to sit and pass the test in order to obtain Indefinite Leave to Remain visa status in the UK. I am now a dual UK and US national.

The abstract is here:

"Immigration presents a daunting challenge to successive British governments. The public ranks immigration as one of the leading policy issues after the economy and employment. There is also greater public support for stronger immigration controls than in many other countries. In response, government strategy has included the use of a citizenship test. While the citizenship test is widely acknowledged as one key part of immigration policy, the test has received surprisingly little critical analysis. This article is an attempt to bring greater attention to serious problems with the current test and to offer three recommendations for its revision and reform. First, there is a need to revise and update the citizenship test. Secondly, there is a need to expand the test to include questions about British history and basic law. The third recommendation is more wide-ranging: it is that we reconsider what we expect new citizens to know more broadly. The citizenship test should not be viewed as a barrier, but as a bridge. The focus should centre on what future citizens should be expected to know rather than how others might be excluded. The test should ensure that future citizens are suitably prepared for citizenship. There is an urgent need to improve the test and this should not be an opportunity wasted for the benefit of both citizens and future citizens alike."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

St John's College, Oxford - many thanks!

I have enjoyed an academic scholarship at St John's College, Oxford over the summer and must thank the college for their terrific hospitality - and for permitting me to work in such an inspiring environment. Readers may know that my new monograph, Punishment, is headed to a bookstore near you now. This book is a critical examination of the leading theories about punishment and their (often problematic) relation to practical case studies. I defend the position of a "unified theory of punishment" introduced in this book and note its pedigree in the writings of Locke, Hegel, and several British Idealists.

My research project at St John's was work on a new research monograph tentatively entitled Beyond Retribution: The Unified Theory of Punishment that will offer the first full length defence of my new theory of punishment. It seeks to close a gap between theory and practice. Most theorists defend a single aim for punishment - such as retribution, crime reduction or offender rehabilitation - and reject what I call penal pluralism, namely, the idea that punishment has multiple penal principles. Sentencing practices often adopt penal pluralism. Examples include the Model Penal Code, US Federal sentencing guidelines, individual US state sentencing commission guidelines, and sentencing guidelines in the UK. Penal pluralism is rejected because it is thought incoherent and indefensible. My project is to demonstrate how pluralism might be defended in a coherent and compelling new account that closes the gap between theory and practice - and helps illuminate how we might further improve our practices.

For a brief look at the unified theory, see my New Waves in Ethics or Punishment. Expect to see much more and soon....

Friday, September 07, 2012

Brooks on Punishment

Review and examination copies of my forthcoming book Punishment are available here. The perfect gift for the holidays....

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Robin Attfield on Ethics

I warmly recommend Robin Attfield's new Ethics: An Overview recently published by Continuum. The book's blurb:

"This is the definitive companion to the study of ethics. It provides students with an accessible, comprehensive and philosophically rigorous introduction to the major thinkers, issues and debates. Ideal for use on undergraduate courses, but also of lasting value for postgraduate students, the structure and content of this textbook closely reflect the way ethics is studied.

Thematically structured, the text provides a historical overview of the subject and a comprehensive introduction to the main branches of ethics: meta-ethics, normative ethics and applied ethics. The book also includes coverage of key aspects of value theory and key issues concerning agency and moral responsibility. It applies ethics to contemporary issues such as climate change, the environment, development, poverty and war. Crucially, the book encourages students to do ethics for themselves, equipping the reader with a wide-ranging grasp of the discipline in all its central areas of contemporary study and reflection.

Robin Attfield's cogent and thorough analysis is supplemented by a companion website featuring a wealth of student-friendly features, including chapter summaries, study questions, exercises, and a comprehensive guide to further reading and other resources."

‘An uncommonly clear, fair-minded and up-to-date survey of this vast and contentious field. Attfield is particularly good about Evolution.’
— Mary Midgley, author of Beast and Man: the Roots of Human Nature

‘… one of the most comprehensive overviews of the discipline… The intellectual and moral thoughtfulness so characteristic of Attfield's work make his book one of the best introductions for all those who expect from ethics both conceptual analyses and concrete answers to the question: What is right?’
— Vittorio Hösle, Paul Kimball Professor of Arts and Letters, Notre Dame University, USA

‘This is an admirable up-to-date introduction to the main fields of ethics… Attfield consistently avoids being magisterial. Instead, the reader is invited to think things through for himself and to come to his own conclusions.’
— Dieter Birnbacher, Professor of Philosophy, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, Germany

Many thanks to the BPPA

Many thanks to the British Postgraduate Philosophical Association for hosting my talk yesterday on "The Application of Philosophy to the Public Sphere" co-sponsored by the Society for Applied Philosophy. Topics addressed included: academic jobs for philosophers outside philosophy departments, non-academic careers, and creating "impact" through social media, traditional media (news op-eds, radio), and working with politicians and public policy networks (think tanks, etc). Some excellent questions and delighted to see real enthusiasm for the topic!

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Soran Reader: A Tribute

A wonderful tribute to Soran Reader may be found here at the Durham University's Philosophy Department homepage. There is also a sample of her publications. A sad loss for philosophy - she will be missed.