Affirmative Action ‘In Action’: The Case of Northern Ireland

Affirmative action is a legislative strategy intended to achieve two objectives: to positively alter the composition of workforces to raise the representation of disadvantaged groups and to reduce instances of bias toward these groups while promoting greater social cohesion. In this clip, I explore this strategy and its application to Northern Ireland.

Changing Civic (and Student) Behaviour

Education, like public policy, often targets behavioural change. Students pursue learning so they can develop skills, knowledge and understanding that will influence how they see the world and create greater opportunities for reaching what they consider the good life. Public policy is similarly focussed though with greater emphasis placed on the government’s conception of the good life.

Two strategies are most common when pursuing behavioural change in both the education and policy sectors: nudge and think. In the following clip, I examine both models, identifying their respective strengths and weaknesses. My conclusion is that these two models are more symbiotic than mutually exclusive.

Intellectual Property and Its Discontents

The study of intellectual property law has traditionally revolved around one object: the examination of legal protections crafted to reward – and implicitly encourage – intellectual pursuit. But the IP terrain has changed dramatically over recent decades. Cultural and symbolic goods have become valuable sources of capital accumulation. To this end, witness the incorporation of private proprietary rights over intangible assets in the global trade regime. These rights now rival – if not surpass – collective welfare concerns (e.g. human rights) in both stature and sophistication. The privileging of private interests over communal wellbeing has triggered a potent backlash, making intellectual property law an important site of social critique and thus an important topic for legal education.

In this course, we will examine the rise of informational capital in the new economy and the attendant legal protections afforded in international law. We will consider the emergence of powerful non-state global actors – inter alia transnational corporations and financial institutions – and the influence they wield over regulatory regimes, both global and domestic. Finally, we will discuss a series of examples in which intellectual property is being used for new purposes, specifically to promote alternate social objectives and normative aspirations.

[On offer at Queen’s in the fall semester 2015]

The Geopolitics of International Law

As of late, strong questions have surfaced surrounding the future of international law. Is globalisation undermining notions of state sovereignty, ushering in a post-sovereign period of global governance? Is human rights discourse incurably Eurocentric, negating its future as an emancipatory vehicle? Have the latest Anglo-American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan or NATO’s campaign of destruction-cum-protection against Libya rung the death knell of Article 2(4) of the UN Charter? And what of the world economy and the retreat, possibly temporary, from meta-regulatory regimes triggered by the recession and by domestic protectionist pressures (increasingly fomented by chauvinistic populism)?

In this course, we will link geopolitics to international law, with the aim of evaluating the interplay between legal, illegal, and extra-legal activities and their impact upon state action. A critical lens will help us appreciate how geopolitical considerations are frequently used by states to justify plunder, often in defiance of international legal obligations. We will conclude with an assessment of legitimacy standards in international law and the place of democracy in possible legal reformation.

An Introduction to Rethinking International Law

International Legal Education – Changing Civic (and Student) Behaviour

A History of International Law

A Luta Continua

The Development Gap

Equal Laws in An Unequal World

Power Only Takes a Step Back in the Face of Greater Power

From Ideology to Faith

Trading Our Way to Valhalla

Writing Resistance Into International Law

The Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas

A Global Democracy?

The Multicultural Turn in International Law

Why do we obey the law? Hart & Dworkin

Must we obey the law? I suspect the answer for most is yes. This makes sense since the alternative — a society where people pick and choose which laws they wish to be bound by — sounds somewhat chaotic. Yet, not all agree as instances of civil disobedience the world over demonstrate on a daily basis.

The following clip is PART III in a series on obedience (and disobedience) to the law. Hart, a positivist, and Dworkin, a natural law theorists approach legal theory from distinct, possibly competing, perspectives. In this clip, I attempt to highlight some of the key features of their respective theories.

Why do we obey the law? From Hobbes to Austin

Must we obey the law? I suspect the answer for most is yes. This makes sense since the alternative — a society where people pick and choose which laws they wish to be bound by — sounds somewhat chaotic. Yet, not all agree as instances of civil disobedience the world over demonstrate on a daily basis.

The following clip is PART II in a series on obedience (and disobedience) to the law. Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau and Austin, each in their own way, develop the concept of the social contract, devising conditions in which the law must be obeyed (or not). Despite the overlap in their thinking, the variations – obedience for prudential or moral reasons – prove important.