I am delighted to receive an invitation to become an elected member of the Academia Europaea, or 'Academy of Europe'. This is a pan-European Academy of Sciences, Humanities and Letters which includes 72 Nobel Laureates. Further information is here: https://www.ae-info.org/ae/Member/Brooks_Thom
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
As we enter my fifth and last year as Dean of Durham Law School, we are hiring in several areas:
ALL POSITIONS ARE FULL-TIME AND PERMANENT.
Please send any queries directly to me!
Thursday, April 23, 2020
And being taught about non-violence from the Jain tradition as well as Buddhist traditions has had a profound effect on my thinking. Their different understanding about self-defence and opposition to all forms of violence (especially for Jain) plays a central role in a major paper (and probably short book) I'm working on about why the just war tradition is based on a mistake. (Wait for the paper to get the full picture - or invite me to give the paper to your department!)
And don't jest about the dissertation topic. Years later at a Hegel Society of Great Britain conference at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, there were various talks exploring Hegel on religion. Several speakers compared and contrasted Hegel's insights with others like Nietzsche. I don't recall my specific argument, but I had raised an objection about a comparison between Hegel and Nietzsche noting their different views on Buddhism. During the coffee break, one of the conference delegates -- Dr Rowan Williams, then Archbishop of Canterbury (and a serious scholar on the reception of Hegel's theological work in the Russian Orthodox tradition) -- remarked that he thought my point was a bit unfair on Nietzsche. (And I never thought I'd hear something like that from someone in his position - but Rowan was and is a remarkable man.) Our conversation had ended with my saying that, while I was not a Buddhist, if I was, then I'd be a Mahayana Buddhist motivated agreeing more with their view of the self and other. To my surprise - and delight! - Rowan replied that he was not a Buddhist either (in case I needed reminding) but, if he had to choose, he'd be a Mahayana too. (And I most certainly never thought I'd hear anything like that - which only endeared me to him even more.) But if not for Joy, I might not have delved deep enough to appreciate the differences between the Mahayana, Theravada, Tibetan, Zen and other Buddhist traditions.
I served as a teaching assistant for Joy during my time at Arizona State. I supported his teaching political thought and a class he taught on "Legal Theory". This was my very first introduction to the subject (with the daunting challenge of having to mark undergraduate essays in a subject that I had not formally studied as an undergraduate myself). This has left a significant mark as I discovered how much I enjoyed jurisprudence which he introduced me to. After my MA, when I went to UCD, I took a class on jurisprudence (with Gerard Casey) and then, for my PhD, devoted a quarter of my thesis to Hegel on legal theory (comparing his views to those of Ronald Dworkin) and a further chunk to his theory of punishment. Joy gets much credit for introducing me to Hart, Austin, Dworkin, Fuller and more -- and, of course, many years later jurisprudence has become a part of my calling.
I further learned from Joy as a teacher. He taught the political theory core on my MA. This suited me beautifully as my interest - like his - was primarily historical and oriented towards non-Western ideas. So a class focused mostly on the history of political thought and ending with work on engaged Buddhism fit the bill. During this time, he fascinated me with the work of Dr Ambedkar, a hugely significant figure in India's independence.
I also sat his South Asian Politics class. This was more difficult. The class met Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for 50 minutes starting at about 7.30am. Joy would enter with his walking stick and little else. He would sit on the front table and, in an engaging conversational style, would enlighten as much as he would entertain.
Joy was also eccentric. He taught kung fu (if I recall) for many years and would regularly invite graduate students to punch his stomach to show his fitness. Of course, none of us dared as he was already nearing retirement at that time. But I know of one fellow student who agreed (happening after I left ASU) and, well, it didn't quite go as either imagined. But that was Joy. Full of life and ready for anything.
I'll end with a story he liked to tell. An old man was walking up a mountain. Along the way he lost various possessions including his mandala, his walking stick and more until it was just him alone - an blind - at the mountain's summit. "It was only then that he could see," Joy would say with his infectious smile. I very much hope Joy is in that same heavenly place.
Ok, one more. He also used to like a Buddhist parable where a man gave his life for his dog. (Joy loved his dogs.) And in so doing, he reached nirvana. Enjoy nirvana, Joy.
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Friday, January 31, 2020
A task that has kept me very busy has been our HUGE recruitment campaign. The Law School at Durham University is doubling the academic staff and this is our biggest round.
ALL POSITIONS ARE FULL-TIME AND PERMANENT/TENURED:
Chair in Commercial & Corporate Law
Associate/Assistant in Intellectual Property Law (2x)
Associate/Assistant in Biolaw
Please send any questions DIRECT TO ME. This is a major opportunity to help build a global top 50 law school. Check us out: http://www.durham.ac.uk/law
Friday, July 12, 2019
I wrote a piece on the Tory leadership contest shortly after it started, but did not publish at the time. Thought it might be fun to see how predictions actually did play out since....
Thursday, April 18, 2019
Tuesday, April 16, 2019
Restorative Justice (RJ) is a progressive means to a more effective end. Research shows it leads to up to 25% less reoffending at 1/9th the cost - and with vast improvements in both victim and offender satisfaction in process.
But it's currently primarily used for teen offenders for non-violent crimes. How to get it better embedded and more widely used?
Two keys to unlocking this:
First is RJ requires offenders to admit guilt. They are then free to agree or reject contract at end of meeting. If they fulfil it, they are 'restored' avoiding court, prison and have a clean record. But if they don't do so, the consequences are almost trivial: a new process might start all over again or proceed to court where previous admission of guilt in RJ is inadmissable.
So first recommended change is to say RJ matters and an admission of guilt to victims counts. End inadmissibility of previous guilt confession. Consider further penalities, including suspended sentence for violent offenders who break RJ contract.
Second is RJ options. These include non-punitive measures almost by definition: community sentences, drug and/or alcohol treatment, cognitive behaviour treatment sessions, etc.
It's certainly true that a punitive system is problematic and, as found, can be very counterproductive. Progressives shoudl support a less punitive system.
While clear a punitive-driven approach is mean spirited and counterproductive, it is also clear that no punitive options doesn't enable 'restoration' in every case.
So second recommended change is greater range of options for different kinds of offences (perhaps categorised A, B, C) where in some exceptional cases hard treatment in the form of residential drug and alcohol treatment, etc is on offer.
These more taxing options are justified purely on grounds of restoration where less taxing options ineffectual or likely to be so. They could build confidence that RJ is no 'easy' option - nothing easy about receiving treatment, doing community sentence, etc. - with added teeth of consequences if contract broken.
I note the greater use of RJ - even with more taxing options - will necessarily reduce the punitiveness of the overall system.
I've referred to this different approach in my research as "punitive restoration" only to highlight the more taxing nature.
Friday, April 12, 2019
Severe poverty is a key challenge for theorists of global justice. Most theorists have approached this issue primarily by developing accounts for understanding which kinds of duties have relevance and how responsibilities for tackling severe poverty might be assigned to agents, whether individuals, nations or states. All such views share a commitment to ending severe poverty as a wrongful deprivation with profoundly negative impact on affected individuals.
While much attention has prioritised identifying reasons for others to provide relief, this chapter will examine the nature of the wrongful deprivation that characterises severe poverty. One influential view is championed by Martha Nussbaum in her distinctive capabilities approach. An individual might be considered to experience severe poverty where she is unable to enjoy the use of her capabilities which should be available to her. But this position raises several questions. Take the fact that about 1 billion people are unable to meet their basic needs today. Would the capabilities approach claim the number is much higher given its wider grasp of human flourishing beyond mere material subsistence – and what implications would flow from this? Or would the capabilities approach claim only a portion of those unable to meet their basic needs are in a wrongful state because their circumstances are a result of free choice – and what would this mean? These questions indicate a potential concern about whether the approach is over- or under-inclusive and why.
This chapter will proceed by first providing a general overview of Nussbaum’s capabilities approach providing an indication about how her list of ten capabilities might be reformulated differently. The next section applies this approach to severe poverty in a critical discussion of how such poverty is best understood within the capabilities framework. The penultimate section considers the importance of freedom and choice that underpins the approach and its implications for how we apply it to severe poverty. The chapter ends with some concluding remarks about the broad limitations for understanding severe poverty as a kind of capabilities deprivation.
How best to response to climate change is one of the most pressing challenges facing us all. There is no uncertainty about whether it is happening, only the likely negative effects beyond the short-term. The need for a compelling analysis of what to do is more than a question of justice, but a matter of human survival. The stakes could not be higher.
Proposed solutions come in one of two approaches. Each takes a different route to addressing the negative effects of climate change. The first is conservationist and seeks to minimise these effects by reducing, if not eliminating, them by bringing climate change to a stop. This can take form of advocating the use of an ecological footprint or implementing a polluter pays principle. The second is focused specifically on adaptation mostly through technological advances to help us endure climate change by minimising its effects on us. Many theorists advocate some use of both approaches in tandem as climate change is happening making necessary some form of adaptation and conservationism together. Yet it is also clear that most give greater weight to either conservation or adaptation as the primary mode of securing climate change justice.
The dilemma for these proposed solutions is in their aim of being a solution to the problems that climate change brings. In short, they mistake the kind of challenge that climate change presents us. This is what I call the problem of “end-state” solutions. It is where we attempt to bring to an end a circumstance that might be influenced positively or otherwise by our activities, but beyond our full control. So to claim a so-called “solution” to such an everchanging problem could make it better or worse without concluding it. If climate change is this kind of problem – and I will claim it is – then end-state “solutions” can be no more than a band aid (or sticking plaster) and the nature of our challenge is different requiring an alternative future strategy. This chapter will set out how the problem of climate change is understood through attempted solutions that do not succeed. It concludes with some ideas about why this matters and the arising implications for how we should think about climate change justice beyond the false prism of end-state solutions.
Plato’s The Republic is the greatest work by one of the greatest philosophers. This short essay is a general introduction to the overall structure presenting the key ideas and themes. The essay is published in a new edition of The Republic (2019).
Monday, December 17, 2018
An expert who advised the Electoral Commission on the wording of the EU Referendum is recommending a second referendum has become necessary if Parliament remains gridlocked.
Professor Thom Brooks, Dean of Durham Law School, says that should MPs be unable to agree a deal the decision on how to proceed should be put to the public. “A second referendum cannot be justified as a re-run of the last one. But it is our only choice if Parliament remains unable to agree our future relationship with the EU.”
Brooks proposes the second referendum must be different from the first. The choice would be between the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal or remaining in the European Union.
“Theresa May’s deal is the only Brexit on offer and there is no mandate for new negotiations without a snap election. We cannot hold a referendum every time a government wants support for a new deal because that would be re-opening this issue repeatedly until a ‘correct’ result is reached which is intolerable and disrespects public.”
He advises against including No Deal as this was never an option in the first referendum where the idea of leaving the EU without an agreement was widely mocked as Project Fear. Including No Deal as a third option would also split the Brexit vote with May’s deal undermining integrity of result.
Brooks says: “Many in Parliament seem split. They have doubts about May’s deal, but do not want to act against the public’s wishes. This is understandable. Now that Brexit means 500+ pages of detail, it should be left to the public to decide whether or not to accept the view it is the Brexit they voted for or not.”
The Electoral Commission recommended the last referendum’s wording was changed to ensure fairness and impartiality, quoting and citing written evidence from Professor Brooks in its final report to David Cameron’s government.
Tuesday, July 31, 2018
- How should the UK address skills shortages which are currently met by EU migration?
- Should a post-Brexit immigration policy seek to reflect regional variations?
- What are the likely trade-offs?
- What controls to EU migration or employment, additional to those currently used, are presently available to the UK Government within the single market and what might be the impact were they to be adopted by the Government? What measures are used in other EU countries?
- What kind of emergency brake might be available within an EEA type framework?
- What would be the advantages and disadvantages of having the same immigration arrangements for EEA and non-EEA citizens? Would it be practical to apply existing non-EEA rules to EEA citizens after Brexit?
- Is visa liberalisation likely to be a priority for the UK’s trade partners in any potential future FTA negotiations? To what extent can the UK hope to strike trade deals without migration provisions of some kind?
- What steps should the UK take to encourage UK businesses to employ workers already resident in the UK?
Friday, July 27, 2018
‘In place of external examining as it currently operates, let’s introduce more rigorous programme reviews’External examining is no longer fit for purpose.
The problem is not the increasing numbers of student assessments to review or degree programmes to check. It is the failure of universities to increase their resources for external examination in proportion with the sector’s expansion. They largely still pay the same paltry fee for the same few hours of externals’ time as they always did.
The result is that, apart from for dissertations, externals can rarely alter individual marks any longer. They simply don’t have the time to go through them all. So they are limited to either agreeing with everything, warts and all, making some systematic adjustment to marks, or calling for everything to be done again. In my experience, they typically approve just about everything without change, confining themselves to making various comments – usually enormously helpful – on how modules and programmes might be improved further.
Some colleagues argue that we should turn back the clock. If external examining is becoming too much of a rubber-stamp process, we need to increase the powers, time commitment and remuneration of externals, so they can do the job they once did. However, it is unclear how many colleagues would be willing to take on such an onerous task, even with greater compensation.
The right-of-centre think tank Reform argues that national standards should be guaranteed by pegging the distribution of degree classifications on particular courses to their students’ performance in national final-year assessment for each subject. This would seemingly cut out external examiners altogether, but it is a thoroughly bad idea as it would stifle innovation in curriculum design while encouraging teaching to the test.
Universities all claim to engage in some form of research-led or informed teaching. Yet many regulators and managers place research and teaching in different silos. If teaching should have parity with research, then it is high time it was considered in tandem with it.
So I’d propose a US-inspired approach. Let’s leave the annual ritual of marking and exam boards to academic departments and universities. In place of external examining as it currently operates, let’s introduce more rigorous programme reviews, involving external input, every five or so years.
Crucially, these would consider a department’s teaching and research strategies together, in terms of how they cross-pollinate to shape the curriculum.
Such reviews could feed into departmental planning and be of even more use than comments in the truncated tick-box forms used by examiners at present. What we have is formal sign-off that all is well; what we need is genuine challenge to improve.
Bureaucratic micromanagement for its own sake is not the road to climbing in
ternational league tables, reassuring students that their education is world class, or assuring employers that our graduates are ready for any challenge. It’s time we moved on.
Thom Brooks is dean of Durham Law School.
Monday, July 09, 2018
Friday, July 06, 2018
Friday, June 29, 2018
But I enjoy even more reaching out to our brilliant alumni and hearing about their happy and memorable times at Durham, but their continuing life-long interest in the rising success of our Law School. Your being a member of our Law School might have started when admitted, but it does not end at graduation. I encourage everyone to please keep in touch and let us know how we might be in touch with you about Law networking events and more in the UK and around the world that are a new permanent feature of how we will connect and support our students from entry throughout their careers.
You’ll know we always welcome our graduates back – from Lord Hughes and Lady Black on the Supreme Court as well as Lord Justice McFarlane on the Court of Appeal (who receives an honorary doctorate this afternoon) to partners, trainees, barristers-in-training and much more – because we care about your success. Your stories will inspire our future students just as our alumni’s stories have inspired you.
Thursday, May 24, 2018
The SQE is like Brexit. Public didn't ask for it, it promises everything but hasn't existed yet - and might not even happen
Like Brexit, the SQE is causing upheaval. It could make things worse rather than better and may not even happen.
There are many parallels between Brexit and the SRA's SQE.
The decision to hold a referendum was not driven by public demand. Leaving the EU was not one of the top 10 demands by the public prior to PM Cameron calling a referendum. It was mostly about an internal matter of keeping Tories unified and killing off support for Ukip which was hampering Tories at the polls.
Likewise, neither firms nor universities asked for the SQE. This is mostly about an internal matter about the SRA and its own perception of how it plans to regulate in future.
We know more about what Brexit is not than what it might do. But what it might do is anything and everything that sounds good. More freedom, greater sovereignty, taking back control. How? Well, there's nothing yet to point to as it hasn't happened nor is there a deal.
Likewise, the SQE is claimed to improve access, raise standards, etc. But no exam has been written or even provider chosen to write the exam which doesn't yet exist. Much of its justification rests on its effects - and without anything in existence it's all question begging. No wonder the LSB has refused to approve its use before it exists. The many promises need to have some evidence first.
The more we learn about details concerning Brexit the less appealing it looks to even many of its original supporters. Details around Customs and the Northern Ireland border a case in point.
Likewise, the SQE is supposed to be raising standards missing in young trainees. But what of the QLD did the SRA not like? I know of no reports of anyone seeing a lecture, reading a module guide or even taking a look at a hand-out. There is little to no knowledge about what's actually happening in our classrooms which makes the certainty for a change all the more suspicious.
Since the BSB is keeping the QLD, many law schools will keep teaching the QLD subjects so students can qualify to train for the Bar. But with the SQE demanding different content from the QLD, this means that a degree programme already about 50% fixed becomes even more fixed with additional required content. This content will concern more practical, and it seems less academic, issues. And it will drive out areas like comparative and international law modules precisely at the time our students need to be ready for a global world.
(It is also revealing in new research discussed at the conference this morning about what law firms most want but don't get that none of this covered by the SQE - despite the fact the SQE is supposed to ensuring this gap is covered by it. In fact, the opposite.)
While there is a kind of inevitability about Brexit, much could cause it to go off the tracks or stop. We hear of transition periods and they get longer and longer.
Likewise, the SQE's roll-out changes again and again. Just before I spoke, we've heard the SRA claim that the transition period looks set to grow longer again now too. But what if it didn't happen? It seems to me this would do no harm - and probably a lot of good.
If we want to raise standards or improve diversity, we don't need a multiple choice exam to achieve it. In fact, such an exam might undermine doing so. It can be far easier to use the existing framework which looks at widening participation, employability, salaries, etc than creating an exam from scratch.
If only the SRA would have the leadership to think again. There is a constructive dialogue waiting to happen between the SRA, BSB, firms, universities and more to ensure the UK continues to have a global leading legal educational system. But proceeding with a SQE for internal SRA-related reasons doesn't improve things for students learning law, for universities educating students, for firms hiring graduates or the profession in the long-term.