Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The latest news on research council funded postgraduate studentships

. . . found here. This is hopefully a "blip" and will rise once more next year, although the current signs aren't as encouraging as many hope.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Major new think tank announcement

. . . is being discussed at present. News to follow post-break!

Blogging hiatus

Loyal readers! Not unlike many colleagues, I've been almost constantly "online" for many years now. Since receiving my first email address as an undergraduate in ca. 1995, I haven't been "offline" for more than 48 hours or so since. This will change shortly as I'm about to take my first proper break in many years. There may be the odd post over the next few days, but please check back in mid-August. Many a big announcement to make and much more analysis on publications and politics to follow....

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The "nudge" report

Details here.

UPDATE: Readers are encouraged to visit my post here at Ethics Etc on nudge theory. Will we witness a wave of new work on "libertarian paternalism"? Or is it an idea whose time has already passed?

The end of Blue Labour ?

PM David Cameron's idea of the "Big Society" has received much unwelcome criticism. The idea has undergone several relaunches and its "tsar" resigned within days of the last relaunch. But Cameron is not alone in having trouble selling a new(ish) political vision.

The Labour Party has been flirting with the idea of "Blue Labour," the brainchild of several but whose most visible support is perhaps Maurice Glasman. Glasman was recently transford into Lord Glasman and he has had the ear of Ed Miliband. Miliband recently had little other than good things to say about the idea of Blue Labour in a much discussed e-book, The Labour Tradition and the Politics of Paradox. (I particularly recommend Stuart White's contribution.)

Lord Glasman has come under increasing criticism for his controversial views and, more recently, on immigration where it is alleged that he supports a halt in immigration. Now leading figures in the Blue Labour movement, such as Jon Cruddas MP and Jonathan Rutherford have now allegedly declared they can no longer support Blue Labour.

I believe this is a welcome opportunity for change in the right direction within the Labour Party. There has been a search for something new, a new vision of an alternative politics to that offered by the coalition government, and this has been a distraction for several months. I don't think it would be a leap to say that Blue Labour hasn't fared much better than the Big Society in attracting public support. The problem of leaders believing they need a political vision is a problem we've noted before here and here.

The Labour Party has been conducting a year long review on policy and the initial results will be known shortly. The idea was that the party has begun with a "blank sheet of paper" and engaged in a listening exercise. The party has been discussing with party members and the general public what issues concern them most. This is precisely the opportunity to drop Blue Labour in favour of something bolder and better.

Some characteristics for the new Labour Party vision:

1. Labour has a positive message for Britain's future. One problem with Blue Labour is that it often appeared to look backwards for a model of the future. Times have changed, and so have the electorate (and party members). The review has wisely addressed the democratic deficit in policy formation. We now need to see more about what Labour will stand for and why this is good news for the country's future.

2. Labour is a party ready for government. They say there is no position more difficult than Leader of the Opposition. It is perhaps difficult enough to be a critical voice to shifting government policies and repeated u-turns. Labour enjoys strong support in the polls, but there has been an issue with translating poll success into electoral success. The public is open to an alternative and broadly unfavourable towards the coalition. This is an opportunity that Labour should do a bit more to exploit. The party may be disappointed by not-as-good-as-expected election results if staying on course. However, the party can be bold and offer more in terms of concrete policy platforms. Let the public see more about what the party favours than what it does not. Labour has been clear on several policy areas and VAT is one of them. My suggestion is that we should see a bit more flesh on the bones. This will no doubt arise through the policy review and this is why our learning soon its initial findings comes at a welcome time.

3. Labour as a party of aspiration. Labour should ensure its message is not merely one of its being competent for governance with a positive message. It should also appeal to the public's aspirations and hopes. I believe this third component is the key -- and it is something we heard all too little about from Blue Labour.

So these are my recommendations for the Labour Party. The end of Blue Labour is not the end of Labour, but a welcome opportunity for renewal. Blue Labour has not captured the public imagination and its loss will not pose any major setback. Labour is about to announce findings of its year long policy review anyway. This is an opportunity to launch a positive vision that appeals to public aspirations in looking forward while recognizing our shared past.

UPDATE: Want to discuss this further? Then join me in attending the Labour Party conference in September: the details are here.

Punishment on Oxford Bibliographies Online

My survey can be found here.

G. W. F. Hegel on political philosophy @ Oxford Bibliographies Online

My survey can be found here.

British Idealism - on Oxford Bibliographies Online

My survey can be found here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Professional associations and joining the profession

I've received several communications after posting about my journal subscriptions recently. The primary question has been "why so many?" followed by "is this normal?"

Probably most of the journals I receive come through membership in learned societies, such as the Aristotelian Society, the American Political Science Association, EPOP, and Political Studies Association.

I first joined a learned society on the advice of Warren E. Miller. Professor Miller told my postgraduate cohort that learned society membership was essential to joining the profession: if you are serious about joining the profession, then you should have an active interest and membership in a professional society.

I have always thought it wise to be a member of at least a few learned societies. Of course, this is not free. However, there are often associated newsletters and journals of possible interest. Plus, there is the bigger prize of forging new professional contacts through contributing to society events and other activities.

I'd warmly recommend those considering an academic career to become involved with at least 1-2 learned societies at the earliest opportunity.

For those new to "Hackergate"...

This year was almost destined to be a year of politics. The so-called "Arab spring" and the several regime changes across the Middle East seemed the story of the year. However, and especially for non-UK readers, I must say that my initial sense is that the current situation in the UK is perhaps an even bigger event. I'm reserving some judgement for now as the facts are still being established and every day has brought almost sensational new revelations. We can only expect the unexpected, but I will offer some comment in the next few days.

Introducing "American Dialectic"

. . . a new philosophical resource found here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Thom Brooks on "Respect for Nature: The Capabilities Approach"

. . . in the latest issue of Ethics, Policy & Environment here (subscription-only). The article begins:

"David Schmidtz offers powerful arguments in favour of a respect for nature over species egalitarianism. While I accept much of his account, I argue that his understanding of respect may be too thin to perform its proper task. Instead, our use of respect should be grounded in the capabilities approach. This approach offers us a more substantive perspective through which we might best conceive respect. I will begin with an outline of the main argument in favour of respect for nature (and against species egalitarianism). The discussion will then close with how we might better understand respect. [. . .]"

UPDATE: I'm pleased to see that this reply has made the top 5 most read in this fantastic (and highly recommended) journal. The happy results of blogging?

News International: what next?

If a day is a long time in politics, then what is a week for media empires? Recent events are highly unusual and the situation continues to evolve. Today, we learn that Rebekah Brooks has resigned (see here), but several questions remain.

Perhaps the question is this: a leading Sunday tabloid was shut and up to 200 potential job losses all so that one person had an extra week at the company, or so it may appear. Why?

I suspect this story is far from over and its political repercussions will be something we'll be talking about for months, if not years, to come.

For those "about" to rock...?

A terrific post here on this philosophical problem by Scott Aikin.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Journal subscriptions

We see various posts on new books and other publications, but rarely a few words about journal subscriptions. I subscribe to the following journals:

American Political Science Review

British Journal of Politics & International Relations

Bulletin of the Hegel Society of Great Britain

Collingwood and British Idealism Studies

Contemporary Social Science



Ethics & International Affairs

Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties

Journal of Moral Philosophy

Legal Theory

Owl of Minerva

Parliamentary Affairs

Perspectives on Politics

Philosophical Writings

Philosophy & Public Affairs

Political Studies

Political Studies Review


Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society (and Supplement)

PS: Political Science & Politics

Public Affairs Quarterly

Royal Historical Society Transactions

I note that many of these subscriptions are part of a package re: learned society or editorial board membership. Does this mean I have much to read? Yes, it does. Nevertheless, I find it also keeps me current -- as does my job as editor of the Journal of Moral Philosophy.

I should add that I have particularly enjoy serving on different editorial boards because I feel a strong sense of service to our profession, but I have also benefited from sharing experiences and insights to help foster a strong culture of journal editing. So very happy to serve on further editorial boads as an active member and I'd encourage others to do so as well.

Fabian Freyenhagen on "Taking Reasonable Pluralism Seriously"

A "must read" article now published in Politics, Philosophy & Economics here (subscription-only). The paper's abstract:

"The later Rawls attempts to offer a non-comprehensive, but nonetheless moral justification in political philosophy. Many critics of political liberalism doubt that this is successful, but Rawlsians often complain that such criticisms rely on the unwarranted assumption that one cannot offer a moral justification other than by taking a philosophically comprehensive route. In this article, I internally criticize the justification strategy employed by the later Rawls. I show that he cannot offer us good grounds for the rational hope that citizens will assign political values priority over non-political values in cases of conflict about political matters. I also suggest an alternative approach to justification in political philosophy (that is, a weak realist, Williams-inspired account) that better respects the later Rawls’s concern with non-comprehensiveness and pluralism than either his own view or more comprehensive approaches. Thus, if we take reasonable pluralism seriously, then we should adopt what Shklar aptly called ‘liberalism of fear’."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bloomsbury acquires Continuum

. . . some positive news in the world of publishing. I understand that - yesterday - Bloomsbury has acquired Continuum. Bloomsbury is perhaps best known for publishing the Harry Potter novels, but the publishing house has begun publishing some excellent academic titles (as "Bloomsbury Academic") and one would imagine that the acquisition of Continuum will contribute to a strong list.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Journal of Moral Philosophy joins Thomson Reuter's ISI

Today, I have received the news that the Journal of Moral Philosophy has been selected for coverage in Thomson Reuter's ISI. The JMP will now be indexed and abstracted in:

* Arts and Humanities Citation Index

* Current Contents / Arts & Humanities

* Social Sciences Citation Index

* Journal Citation Reports / Social Sciences Edition

* Current Contents / Social and Behavioral Sciences

This has been made possible through the efforts of many and not least the outstanding contributors to the JMP. It is the journal's high quality and "impact" that has made this possible.

There is further good news as well. The JMP is now publishing accepted and corrected papers "online" prior to appearing in print issues. This is a terrific new development and my warm thanks to Brill, our publisher, for their support. This will significantly reduce the time spent between acceptance and publication. Readers should expect to find papers online prior to appearing in print shortly.

The JMP was launched in 2004 and attracts about 250+ papers per year. Our acceptance rate is about 7% and our journal has been ranked "A". General queries should be sent to the editor, Thom Brooks (yours truly), and submissions can be made on our online submission platform

UPDATE: Of course, the Journal of Moral Philosophy is already included in several abstract/index databases, including The Philosopher's Index amongst many others.

UPDATE 2: Many thanks to Brian Leiter for his kind words about the JMP and my job as editor. The JMP started as an idea at my kitchen table in Sheffield while a graduate student in 2002. Our first contract was signed a year later and the first issue was launched in April 2004. Since this time, the journal has far exceeded my expectations. I highly recommend the JMP to anyone working in the areas of moral, political, and legal philosophy. If your library does not yet subscribe, then please ask them to do so!

UPDATE 3: The JMP Editorial Board:


Thom Brooks (Newcastle University)

Review Editor:

Christian Miller (Wake Forest University)

Advisory Committee:

Mark Bevir (University of California, Berkeley)
Fabian Freyenhagen (University of Essex)
Peter Jones (University of Newcastle)
Tim Mulgan (University of St Andrews)
Alastair Norcross (University of Colorado, Boulder)
Leif Wenar (King's College London)
Editorial Board:

Kwame Anthony Appiah (Princeton University)
Elizabeth Ashford (University of St Andrews)
Julia Driver (Washington University at St Louis)
John Gardner (Oxford University)
Axel Honneth (J.W. Goethe Universit├Ąt)
Frances Myrna Kamm (Harvard University)
Brian Leiter (University of Chicago)
Hallvard Lillehammer (University of Cambridge)
Jeff McMahan (Rutgers University)
Pratap Bhanu Mehta (Jawaharlal Nehru University)
Martha Nussbaum (University of Chicago)
Michael Otsuka (University College London)
Philip Pettit (Princeton University)
Joseph Raz (Columbia University/University of Oxford)
Michael Sandel (Harvard University)
Ian Shapiro (Yale University)
Seana Shiffrin (University of California, Los Angeles)
Chin Liew Ten (National University of Singapore)
Jeremy Waldron (New York University)
Jonathan Wolff (University College London)
Allen Wood (Indiana University)

Newcastle philosophers have "Big Ideas for the Future"

The Research Councils UK (RCUK) report Big Ideas for the Future presents the top 100 future "big ideas" in British universities.

Newcastle University has four academics named in this report -- and two are members of the Newcastle Ethics, Legal, and Political Philosophy Group that I launched a few years ago. NELPP member Jan Deckers is included for his pioneering research into the ethics of farmed animal products.

The second NELPP member is Thom Brooks and I have previously noted the report's inclusion of my work on the unified theory of punishment, a new alternative to retributivist, deterrence, expressivism, and other theories.

This is very good news for philosophy and for multidisciplinary research. NELPP is a research group with members in all three faculties and a wide diversity of subjects. The group engages in regular seminars and conferences, as well as reading groups. NELPP helps facilitate new multidisciplinary research across faculties. There is much more to come with ambitious future schedules and research activities in preparation. In the meantime, it is good news to see NELPP perform so well for the university in this report.

UPDATE: The Newcastle University press release is here and the School of Geography, Politics, and Sociology press release is here with my statement:

"I am delighted to see my work on theories of punishment receive this important recognition as a future 'Big Idea'. My work has tried to resolve a stand-off between key positions in the debate with a clear view towards informing public policy, especially sentencing guidelines. The unified theory of punishment I have developed offers much promise as a model framework of interest to theorists and practitioners alike. While there remains more work to do, it is very satisfying to have my research identified by RCUK in this way."

UPDATE: The Journal (Newcastle) has an article on the report here noting Durham and Newcastle successes.

The story behind the "American Taliban"

A very moving account from his father can be found here. A "must read" essay.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Thom Brooks on "A Connecticut Yankee in King Alan's Court"

. . . has been published today by the Times Higher here. An excerpt:

"[. . .] Where we are from often informs who we are. I traded life in the American Northeast for life in the North East of England. New Haven - the site of the US' first public tree-planting programme, earning it the nickname "Elm City" - is famous for the great Patriot Nathan Hale, the cotton-gin inventor Eli Whitney, and for Sally's Apizza, a legendary pizzeria. As such, it is rather different from Newcastle, or "Geordieland", which counts footballer-turned-pundit Alan Shearer and politician and tea-godfather Charles Grey, the 2nd Earl Grey, among its most famous sons.

Yet it is a trade I would make any day. Let me explain why a Connecticut Yankee would prefer life as a Geordie-in-training.

[. . .] One of the reasons I feel at home in the North East of England is the fact that the local population - at about 2.5 million, it is similar in size to Connecticut's - are just as proud of their region. There is a rich Roman heritage, and it is home to Lindisfarne, a "cradle of Christianity" in England, where St Aidan founded his Anglo-Saxon monastery in AD635. The area is awash with castles - Bamburgh, Bishop Auckland, Durham, Newcastle and Tynemouth: indeed, the land was once the home of the Northumbrian kings. And then there is the city of Durham and its cathedral, which my compatriot Bill Bryson described as "the best cathedral on planet Earth", urging readers that if they hadn't visited it yet, "go at once; take my car".

[. . .] The UK today strikes me as a land of wonder, in which villages retain their charm and cities their unique personality. The same is not always true for the modern US. I find it much easier to find inspiration in the Northumberland coastline than I do in the shoreline along the Long Island Sound. [. . .]"

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

The Unified Theory of Punishment makes "Big Ideas for the Future" report

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Research Councils UK (RCUK) Big Ideas for the Future report includes discussion of a new theory of punishment that I have been developing over the last few years. The report (and my inclusion) is noted on the Newcastle University's website here and here. It is one of four Newcastle University research projects highlighted in this report. [Links updated; update below]

RCUK Chair Rick Rylance says of the Big Ideas for the Future report: "Research has an impact on all our lives. Whether it is a breakthrough in experimental science, or an invention that makes new things possible, or a project that leads us to understand better the strengths and weaknesses of our society, research is the key to the UK’s growth, prosperity and wellbeing. Big Ideas for the Future showcases just some of the excellent research being carried out in UK universities that achieves these aims. It is vital we continue to support the talented individuals whose work makes a real difference."

The report highlights the unified theory of punishment and it is a primary contribution in my forthcoming Punishment monograph (USA  or UK) and planned Beyond Retributivism (in preparation). The theory builds off of similar attempts by Hegel and British Idealists, such as T. H. Green, Bernard Bosanquet, and James Seth, to bring together competing principles of justice into one coherent theory. I have published several essays arguing that these idealists hold strikingly similar theories of punishment. My current work develops this position further taking into account new developments in criminal justice and penal theory with the aim of influencing public policy.

The report states:

"The ways in which crime is punished has changed dramatically through the course of history. Today, punishments are more humane and consider in more detail the most effective way to punish an individual that gives justice to the victim. Research at Newcastle University is considering criminal justice policy and what the best approach to this is. Different approaches to criminal justice have conflicting aims. For example, retribution might demand we punish only the guilty to the degree of the wrongness of their act, but this could clash with deterrence because a better deterrent effect might arise from punishing more or less severely.

However the researchers at Newcastle are considering a unified theory of punishment. This would be a logical theory of punishment that accounts for the potential future dangerousness, deterrence methods, and criminal rehabilitation of offenders. These problems cut to the heart of our criminal justice public policy decision-making and should be taken into account when we decide how justice should be served. The difference in the future may be very significant not least in offering an entirely new approach to thinking about punishment, as well as a model for use in sentencing by judges and magistrates."

UPDATE: More on this on the School of Geography, Politics, and Sociology website here. Many thanks to all the messages of congratulations: I am particularly pleased by this!

UPDATE 2: The Big Ideas for the Future report notes 100 "Big Ideas" in current UK university research. Half of these projects noted at Newcastle University are conducted by members of its Newcastle Ethics, Legal, and Political Philosophy (NELPP) Group.

Esposito and Lambert on poverty measurement

. . . can be found here in the latest issue of Economics and Philosophy (subscription-only). An abstract:

"The seminal contribution of Sen (1976) led to a new way to conceptualize and measure absolute poverty, by arguing for the need to ‘take note of the inequality among the poor’ (Sen 1976: 227). Since then, the ‘Inequality’ of poverty has become the third ‘I’ of poverty, which together with the ‘Incidence’ and the ‘Intensity’ of it constitute the dimensions deemed relevant for poverty evaluation. In this paper, we first argue that the interest in the third ‘I’ of poverty actually originates from a prioritarian (Parfit 1995) rather than an egalitarian attitude. Further, we illustrate the inability of the three ‘I's to fully comprise the criteria for the assessment of poverty which are de facto adopted by existing poverty indices. Some of them resolve distributional conflicts by following leximin, hence assigning a pivotal role to the worst off. We question the desirability of leximin, and conclude that giving absolute priority to the worst off is plausible only in cases where the latter has been identified by an exogenous threshold demarcating a significant difference in human suffering. Finally, we explore to what extent prioritarianism and the sufficiency argument of Frankfurt (1987), Crisp (2003) and Casal (2007) can help conceptualize giving absolute priority to individuals or groups indentified by exogenous (poverty and ultra-poverty) thresholds."

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Everyday life in British government

. . . a review of Rod Rhodes's book of the same name and one of the "must have" books on politics for 2011. Details here.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Good news for travellers

Details here.

New books

New books this month in my mail bag include:

P. M. Ashraf, The Life and Times of Thomas Spence. Gateshead: Howe Brothers, 1983.

Jean Bodin, Six Books of the Commonwealth, trans. M. J. Tooley. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1967.
Thom Brooks (ed.), New Waves in Ethics. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

Peter Corning, The Fair Society: The Science of Human Nature and the Pursuit of Social Justice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011.

Bernard Crick, In Defence of Politics. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1962.

John Garrett, The Management of Government. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972.

William Haller, The Rise of Puritanism. New York: Harper & Bros., [1938] 1957.

Samuel Johnson, The Major Works. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Robert R. Orr, Reason and Authority: The Thought of William Chillingworth. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967.

James Seth, Ethical Principles, 3rd ed. Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1898.
Mark Norris Lance, Matjaz Potrc, and Vojko Strahovnik (eds), Challenging Moral Particularlism. London: Routledge, 2008.

James Seth, Essays in Ethics and Religion with Other Papers, ed. Andrew Seth Pringle-Pattison. Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1926.

Thomas Spence, The Political Works of Thomas Spence, ed. H. T. Dickinson. Newcastle upon Tyne: Avero, 1982.

Rabindranath Tagore, Gitanjali. New Delhi: Full Circle, 2006.

Rabindranath Tagore, Selected Poems. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985.

Rabindranath Tagore, Selected Short Stories. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 21994.

R. H. Tawney, Equality, 4th ed. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1952.

John Urry, Climate Change and Society. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2011.

Philippe Van Parijs, Just Democracy: The Rawls-Machiavelli Programme. Colchester: ECPR Press, 2011.

Charles Vereker, The Development of Political Theory, 2nd ed. London: Hutchinson, 1964.

Michael Young, The Rise of the Meritocracy, 1870-2033. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1958.

Glen Newey on the AHRC and Big Society

. . . here in his essay "Cringe" published online with the London Review of Books website.

Thom Brooks on BBC Radio on the AHRC and Big Society

My interview by Ian Timms can be found here (from 53:57).