Kevin W. Gray is currently completing the JD at Osgoode Hall Law School. He holds a PhD from Laval University in political philosophy (2011). He was also a visiting scholar at Boston College (where he audited courses in philosophy and law – both at BC and Harvard Law School), a student at the Free University of Brussels, the University of Frankfurt, and the University of Toronto (where he received his Hon. B.Sc. in Physics and Mathematics, 2000). He was previously a visiting scholar at Osgoode Hall Law School, the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto, the University of Frankfurt, and Assistant Professor (with tenure) and Director of the Gulf Studies Center at the American University of Sharjah, where he also ran the Mooting Program.
What are you most proud of in your professional life?
I think like most members of the profession, my greatest impact is likely to be on the lives of my students (and not the results of my work). I’m proud of my students from Afghanistan and the UAE, and those who I taught in Bard’s prison initiative who have went on to graduate studies, to work for their governments, for NGOs, or (in the case of Bard) to be released and to succeed beyond the prison walls, and the (perhaps small) role I played in those accomplishments.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on two separate projects: one is a monograph on the relationship between critical theory, systems theory, and international law. Engaging with the Habermasian and Verdrossian inspired work which aims to develop a critical theory of international law, I argue that critical theorists would do well to abandon Habermas’s legal monism and instead embrace the systems theory of Teubner and others.
The second is a history of radical critiques of the law which were developed in the American legal academy in the 20th century and their impact on contemporary political discourse. It is co-authored with Thomas Simon at Hopkins-Nanjing. In it, we argue that the move to identity politics has led to the abandonment of substantive issues of equality which formed an original part of those critiques. It will be published by Springer in 2019.
I also co-edit, with Hassan Bashir, a book series with Lexington Books on the spread of branch and foreign campuses in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Our book, Western Higher Education in the Middle East and North Africa, edited with Stephen Keck, was published in 2016 by Lexington Press.
What common philosophical dilemma do you think has a clear answer?
The debate between positivism and natural law. I find Hart’s answer compelling, and perhaps most importantly, because so little actually hangs on it, I have trouble understanding the source of the opposition to Hart’s thesis. In its simplest form, I take the positivist thesis to be a sociological claim about the relationship of law and morality which is making no broader normative claim. The fact that so many progressive insist on holding onto anti-positivist views is particularly surprising to me if only for the intellectual history of natural law and its associated doctrines.
What are you reading right now? Would you recommend it?
I’m reading Governance Feminism: An Introduction, by Janet Halley, Prabha Kotiswaran, Rachel Rebouché, and Hila Shamir. I started reading it for my book with Thomas Simon, and I would absolutely recommend it. The authors trace the particular areas of governance where feminism has been ascendant (notably, in international organizations) and how this has transformed the mechanisms of international and national politics. What I find so fascinating is how they trace the arc of feminism’s inclusion in government and the types of feminism (e.g. liberal feminism) which have emerged transcendent and those types (e.g. radical feminism) which have been excluded.
What books are currently on your ‘to read’ list?
Next, I will be spending the summer working on law and economics. As philosophers, we often forget that there was a radical, progressive strain to law and economics before it was co-opted by legal philosophers associated with the University of Chicago. So I will be rereading the works of Ronald Coase, and then Richard Posner’s Economic Analysis of Law and The Economics of Justice.
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