Books

What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets
Sandel Michael J. 2012. What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.Abstract

Should we pay children to read books or to get good grades? Should we put a price on human life to decide how much pollution to allow? Is it ethical to pay people to test risky new drugs or to donate their organs? What about hiring mercenaries to fight our wars, outsourcing inmates to for-profit prisons, auctioning admission to elite universities, or selling citizenship to immigrants willing to pay? 
In his New York Times bestseller What Money Can't Buy, Michael J. Sandel takes up one of the biggest ethical questions of our time: Isn't there something wrong with a world in which everything is for sale? If so, how can we prevent market values from reaching into spheres of life where they don't belong? What are the moral limits of markets? 
In recent decades, market values have crowded out nonmarket norms in almost every aspect of life. Without quite realizing it, Sandel argues, we have drifted from having a market economy to being a market society. 
In Justice, an international bestseller, Sandel showed himself to be a master at illuminating, with clarity and verve, the hard moral questions we confront in our everyday lives. Now, in What Money Can't Buy, he provokes a debate that's been missing in our market-driven age: What is the proper role of markets in a democratic society, and how can we protect the moral and civic goods that markets do not honor and money cannot buy?

“In a culture mesmerized by the market, Sandel’s is the indispensable voice of reason…. What Money Can’t Buy…must surely be one of the most important exercises in public philosophy in many years.”

            --John Gray, New Statesman 

Sandel, “the most famous teacher of philosophy in the world, [has] shown that it is possible to take philosophy into the public square without insulting the public’s intelligence…. [He] is trying to force open a space for a discourse on civic virtue that he believes has been abandoned by both left and right.”

            --Michael Ignatieff, The New Republic 

Brilliant, easily readable, beautifully delivered and often funny,…an indispensable book on the relationship between morality and economics.”

            --David Aaronovitch, The Times (London)

“Sandel is probably the world’s most relevant living philosopher.”

            --Michael Fitzgerald, Newsweek

“Michael Sandel’s What Money Can’t Buy is a great book and I recommend every economist to read it…. The book is brimming with interesting examples that make you think.  I read this book cover to cover in less than 48 hours.  And I have written more marginal notes than for any book I have read in a long time.”

--Timothy Besley, Professor of Economics, London School of Economics, Journal of Economics Literature

What Money Can’t Buy is that rare thing: a work of philosophy addressed to non-philosophers that is neither superficial nor condescending.  Its prose is clear and elegant. Its message is simple and direct. Yet the questions it raises are deep ones…. What Money Can’t Buy is, among other things, a narrative of changing social mores in the style of Montesquieu or Tocqueville.”

            --Chris Edward Skidelsky, Philosophy

Sandel “is such a gentle critic that he merely asks us to open our eyes…. Yet What Money Can’t Buy makes it clear that market morality is an exceptionally thin wedge…. Sandel is pointing out…[a] quite profound change in society.”

            --Jonathan V. Last, The Wall Street Journal 

What Money Can’t Buy is the work of a truly public philosopher…. [It] recalls John Kenneth Galbraith’s influential 1958 book, The Affluent Society…. Galbraith lamented the impoverishment of the public square. Sandel worries about its abandonment—or, more precisely, its desertion by the more fortunate and capable among us…. [A]n engaging, compelling read, consistently unsettling,…it reminds us how easy it is to slip into a purely material calculus about the meaning of life and the means we adopt in pursuit of happiness.”

--David M. Kennedy, Professor of History Emeritus, Stanford University, Democracy: A Journal of Ideas

Sandel “is currently the most effective communicator of ideas in English.”

            --Editorial, The Guardian

“[An] important book…. Michael Sandel is just the right person to get to the bottom of the tangle of moral damage that is being done by markets to our values.”

--Jeremy Waldron, The New York Review of Books

“Michael Sandel is probably the most popular political philosopher of his generation…. The attention Sandel enjoys is more akin to a stadium-filling self-help guru than a philosopher. But rather than instructing his audiences to maximize earning power or balance their chakras, he challenges them to address fundamental questions about how society is organized…. His new book [What Money Can’t Buy] offers an eloquent argument for morality in public life.”

            --Andrew Anthony, The Observer (London)

What Money Can’t Buy is replete with examples of what money can, in fact, buy…. Sandel has a genius for showing why such changes are deeply important.”

            --Martin Sandbu, Financial Times

Michael Sandel is “one of the leading political thinkers of our time…. Sandel’s new book is What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets, and I recommend it highly.  It’s a powerful indictment of the market society we have become, where virtually everything has a price.”

            --Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast

“To understand the importance of [Sandel’s] purpose, you first have to grasp the full extent of the triumph achieved by market thinking in economics, and the extent to which that thinking has spread to other domains. This school sees economics as a discipline that has nothing to do with morality, and is instead the study of incentives, considered in an ethical vacuum. Sandel's book is, in its calm way, an all-out assault on that idea…. Let's hope that What Money Can't Buy, by being so patient and so accumulative in its argument and its examples, marks a permanent shift in these debates.”

            --John Lancaster, The Guardian

“Sandel is among the leading public intellectuals of the age. He writes clearly and concisely in prose that neither oversimplifies nor obfuscates…. Sandel asks the crucial question of our time: ‘Do we want a society where everything is up for sale? Or are there certain moral and civic goods that markets do not honor and money cannot buy?’”

            --Douglas Bell, The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

“[D]eeply provocative and intellectually suggestive…. What Sandel does…is to prod us into asking whether we have any reason for drawing a line between what is and what isn’t exchangeable, what can’t be reduced to commodity terms…. [A] wake-up call to recognize our desperate need to rediscover some intelligible way of talking about humanity.”

            --Rowan Williams, Prospect

“There is no more fundamental question we face than how to best preserve the common good and build strong communities that benefit everyone. Sandel's book is an excellent starting place for that dialogue.”

            --Kevin J. Hamilton, The Seattle Times

“Poring through Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel's new book. . . I found myself over and over again turning pages and saying, 'I had no idea.' I had no idea that in the year 2000, 'a Russian rocket emblazoned with a giant Pizza Hut logo carried advertising into outer space.’. . . I knew that stadiums are now named for corporations, but had no idea that now 'even sliding into home is a corporate-sponsored event.'. . . I had no idea that in 2001 an elementary school in New Jersey became America's first public school 'to sell naming rights to a corporate sponsor.'  Why worry about this trend?  Because, Sandel argues, market values are crowding out civic practices.”

—Thomas Friedman, New York Times

“An exquisitely reasoned, skillfully written treatise on big issues of everyday life.”

--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“In his new book, Michael Sandel —the closest the world of political philosophy comes to a celebrity — argues that we now live in a society where ‘almost everything can be bought and sold.’ As markets have infiltrated more parts of life, Sandel believes we have shifted from a market economy to ‘a market society,’ turning the world — and most of us in it — into commodities. And when Sandel proselytizes, the world listens…. Sandel’s ideas could hardly be more timely.

            -- Rosamund Urwin, Evening Standard (London) 

What Money Can’t Buy is an excellent book…. Drawing upon a vast amount of fascinating empirical examples…Sandel explains why markets and market reasoning should not govern the distribution and allocation of all our social goods.  He invites us to a renewed discussion of market principles in the public sphere…. The book is a clear, sharp and timely attack on the cult of the market which has been spreading since the 1970s.

--Christian Olaf Christiansen and Patrick J. L. Cockburn, European Journal of Social Theory

“The renowned political philosopher Michael Sandel asks what has become a pressing question for our age: Is there anything money can’t buy? .... Sandel’s central worry is that commodification is corrupting.  There are certain goods, such as education, nature, health and sex, and certain approaches to life…that instantiate values and norms that are fundamentally incompatible with those that we associate with markets.  When markets interfere with these goods and approaches to life they ‘crowd out’ the appropriate values and norms and thereby corrupt and diminish their value…. Sandel has made a useful and I think lasting contribution.”

--Prince Saprai, International Journal of Law in Context

Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?
Sandel Michael J. 2009. Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.Abstract

"More than exhilarating; exciting in its ability to persuade this student/reader, time and again, that the principle now being invoked—on this page, in this chapter—is the one to deliver the sufficiently inclusive guide to the making of a decent life." (Vivian Gornick, Boston Review)

“Sandel explains theories of justice…with clarity and immediacy; the ideas of Aristotle, Jeremy Bentham, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, Robert Nozick and John Rawls have rarely, if ever, been set out as accessibly…. In terms we can all understand, ‘Justice’ confronts us with the concepts that lurk, so often unacknowledged, beneath our conflicts.”  (Jonathan Rauch, New York Times)

“Sandel dazzles in this sweeping survey of hot topics…. Erudite, conversational and deeply humane, this is truly transformative reading.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

“A spellbinding philosopher…. For Michael Sandel, justice is not a spectator sport…. He is calling for nothing less than a reinvigoration of citizenship.”  (Samuel Moyn, The Nation)

“Michael Sandel, perhaps the most prominent college professor in America…practices the best kind of academic populism, managing to simplify John Stuart Mill and John Rawls without being simplistic. But Sandel is best at what he calls bringing ‘moral clarity to the alternatives we confront as democratic citizens’…. He ends up clarifying a basic political divide -- not between left and right, but between those who recognize nothing greater than individual rights and choices, and those who affirm a ‘politics of the common good,' rooted in moral beliefs that can't be ignored.”  (Michael Gerson, Washington Post)

"Justice, the new volume from superstar Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel, showcases the thinking on public morality that has made him one of the most sought-after lecturers in the world." (Richard Reeves, Democracy)

“Hard cases may make bad law, but in Michael Sandel’s hands they produce some cool philosophy…. Justice is a timely plea for us to desist from political bickering and see if we can have a sensible discussion about what sort of society we really want to live in.”  (Jonathan Ree, The Observer (London))

“Every once in a while, a book comes along of such grace, power, and wit that it enthralls us with a yearning to know what justice is.  This is such a book.”  (Jeffrey Abramson, Texas Law Review)

“Using a compelling, entertaining mix of hypotheticals, news stories, episodes from history, pop-culture tidbits, literary examples, legal cases and teachings from the great philosophers—principally, Aristotle, Kant, Bentham, Mill and Rawls—Sandel takes on a variety of controversial issues—abortion, same-sex marriage, affirmative action—and forces us to confront our own assumptions, biases and lazy thought…. Sparkling commentary from the professor we all wish we had.”  (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) 

“Michael Sandel is…one of the world's most interesting political philosophers. Politicians and commentators tend to ask two questions of policy: will it make voters better off, and will it affect their liberty? Sandel rightly points out the shallowness of that debate and adds a third criterion: how will it affect the common good?”  (Guardian)

“Michael Sandel transforms moral philosophy by putting it at the heart of civic debate…. Sandel belongs to the tradition, dating back to ancient Greece, which sees moral philosophy as an outgrowth and refinement of civic debate. Like Aristotle, he seeks to systematize educated common sense, not to replace it with expert knowledge or abstract principles.  This accounts for one of the most striking and attractive features of Justice—its use of examples drawn from real legal and political controversies…. Sandel's insistence on the inescapably ethical character of political debate is enormously refreshing.”  (Edward Skidelsky, New Statesman) 

“His ability to find the broad issues at the heart of everyday concerns verges on the uncanny, and his lucid explanations of classic figures such as Mill, Kant, and Aristotle are worth the price of admission.”  (William A. Galston, Commonweal

“A remarkable educational achievement…. Generations of students and educated citizens will be very well served by Sandel’s introductory overviews.”  (Amitai Etzioni, Hedgehog Review)

“Reading ‘Justice’ by Michael Sandel is an intoxicating invitation to take apart and examine how we arrive at our notions of right and wrong….This is enlivening stuff. Sandel is not looking to win an argument; he's looking at how a citizen might best engage the public realm.” (Karen R. Long, Cleveland Plain Dealer)

“Sandel is a champion of a politics of the common good. He wants us to think of ourselves as citizens, not just consumers or isolated choosers.  For him, justice demands that we ask what kind of people and society we want (or ought) to be.”  (John A. Coleman, America)

 “Michael Sandel, political philosopher and public intellectual, is a liberal, but not the annoying sort.  His aim is not to boss people around but to bring them around to the pleasures of thinking clearly about large questions of social policy.  Reading this lucid book is like taking his famous undergraduate course ‘Justice’ without the tiresome parts, such as term papers and exams.”  (George F. Will, syndicated columnist)

Justice is Sandel at his finest: no matter what your views are, his delightful style will draw you in, and he’ll then force you to rethink your assumptions and challenge you to question accepted ways of thinking. He calls us to a better way of doing politics, and a more enriching way of living our lives.”  (E. J. Dionne, syndicated columnist)

The Case Against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering
Sandel Michael J. 2007. The Case Against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering. Cambrige: Harvard University Press.Abstract

Breakthroughs in genetics present us with a promise and a predicament. The promise is that we will soon be able to treat and prevent a host of debilitating diseases. The predicament is that our newfound genetic knowledge may enable us to manipulate our nature—to enhance our genetic traits and those of our children. Although most people find at least some forms of genetic engineering disquieting, it is not easy to articulate why. What is wrong with re-engineering our nature?

The Case against Perfection explores these and other moral quandaries connected with the quest to perfect ourselves and our children. Michael Sandel argues that the pursuit of perfection is flawed for reasons that go beyond safety and fairness. The drive to enhance human nature through genetic technologies is objectionable because it represents a bid for mastery and dominion that fails to appreciate the gifted character of human powers and achievements. Carrying us beyond familiar terms of political discourse, this book contends that the genetic revolution will change the way philosophers discuss ethics and will force spiritual questions back onto the political agenda.

In order to grapple with the ethics of enhancement, we need to confront questions largely lost from view in the modern world. Since these questions verge on theology, modern philosophers and political theorists tend to shrink from them. But our new powers of biotechnology make these questions unavoidable. Addressing them is the task of this book, by one of America’s preeminent moral and political thinkers.

“In the future, genetic manipulation of embryos is expected to have the potential to go beyond the treatment of diseases to improvements: children who are taller, more athletic, and have higher IQs… In The Case against Perfection, Michael Sandel argues that the unease many people feel about such manipulations have a basis in reason… This beautifully crafted little book…quickly and clearly lays out the key issues at stake.”—Gregory M. Lamb, The Christian Science Monitor

“Sandel worries that more genetic choice will undermine our appreciation of the gifted character of human life—our sense that the way we are is not solely the product of our own doing…. Many of us feel uneasy about such a future, without being quite able to say why.  Michael Sandel’s graceful and intelligent new book, The Case against Perfection, is an extended effort to diagnose that unease.”—Carl Elliott, The New England Journal of Medicine

The Case against Perfection by Michael Sandel is a brief, concise, and dazzling argument by one of America’s foremost moral and political thinkers that brings you up to speed on the core ethical issues informing current debates about genetic engineering and stem cell research.”—Gabriel Gbadamosi, BBC Radio

“Given the vast gulf between progressive and conservative thinking, the time is ripe for a philosopher to take on the issues of biotechnology. And in The Case against Perfection Harvard’s Michael Sandel does just that, attempting to develop a new position on biotechnology, one that, like Sandel himself, is not easily identified as either left or right. A former member of the President’s Council on Bioethics, Sandel is uniquely well suited for this task, and to challenge the left to get its bearings on the brave new biology… Sandel poses an important challenge to contemporary progressives who have failed to grasp the importance of the emerging biopolitics.”—Jonathan Moreno, Democracy

“Just what exactly is wrong with an athlete tweaking his genes to perform better, if all the other athletes are doing it? And why shouldn't parents with the means to do so shape the genes of their future children? Many of us find these ideas disturbing, but it's difficult to articulate why. In The Case Against Perfection, political philosopher Michael Sandel, presents a moral explanation for this unease…. He makes the compelling case that genetic engineering to gain advantage for ourselves and our children is deeply disempowering, because it turns us away from the communal good, toward self-centered striving.”—Anne Harding, The Lancet

A “marvelous little book about the moral issues raised by genetic engineering and other forms of biotechnology…. The care with which Sandel examines arguments for and against various forms of biotechnology makes this an excellent primer on how to formulate and assess moral arguments…. The greatest strength of this book is Sandel’s understanding of how the Promethean aspiration to mastery erodes a sense of what he calls the ‘giftedness of life,’ and how the eclipse of this sense diminishes our humanity.” –Paul Lauritzen, Commonweal

“Sandel’s arguments ultimately speak to our gut-level qualms about enhancement; and his aim in fact is to give these qualms a coherent moral basis… His book in the end is more a lyrical plea for reverence and humility than a lawyer’s watertight ‘case against.’ …The ethicist Michael Sandel wants us…to think about where, in a hyper-competitive world, re-engineering our natures will ultimately lead.”—Michele Pridmore-Brown, The Times Literary Supplement

“Michael Sandel‘s dive into the sea of genetic engineering provides a great tasty gulp of contemporary ethical controversy. Quickly read, The Case Against Perfection is nonetheless dense with challenging quandaries, loaded with moral puzzles and filled with facts. An inveterate highlighter, I underlined half the book.”—John F. Kavanaugh, America

 “Anyone who thinks our culture is too competitive and consumer-driven should find that Sandel’s diagnosis resonates. He provides not only a warning about the shape of the future, but equally an indictment of—or at least a call to examine—our individual moral lives and our contemporary social values. Those who support the practice of genetic enhancement argue that the technology is not substantially different from other forms of ‘enhancement’ we use to improve our lives and the lives of our children. Sandel agrees, but he does not base his argument on any particular distinction about the means of enhancement; rather he is deeply concerned about the underlying impetus of mastery and dominion.”—Debra Greenfield, Bioethics Forum

 “For many years I have been ambivalent about reproductive innovations, from surrogate gestation to preimplantation screening for gender selection. After reading Sandel’s exceedingly elegant little book, The Case Against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering, I could finally put satisfactory names to core values implicit in my hesitation: acceptance and solidarity. I encountered Sandel’s book as a participant in the intellectual discourse about parenting. But the book’s greatest value to me was its validation of the commitments of solidarity expressed in my volunteer work on behalf of poor mothers and of acceptance implicit in my determination to mother a child with catastrophic mental illness.”—Anita L. Allen, The Chronicle of Higher Education

“In this short and provocative treatise, Sandel, who is professor of government at Harvard and a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics, takes on the question of why certain kinds of newly available genetic technologies make us uneasy…[his] book reminds us that the proper starting point for bioethics is not, ‘what should we do?’ but rather, ‘what kind of society do we want?’ And ‘what kind of people are we?’”—Faith McLellan, The Scientist

“In a highly readable, wise and little book titled The Case against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering, Michael Sandel argues that parents’ quest to create the ideal child reflects a drive for mastery and domination over life.”—Douglas Todd, The Vancouver Sun

“An illuminating ethical analysis of stem-cell research concludes this stellar work of public philosophy.”—Ray Olson, Booklist

“Sandel explores a paramount question of our era: how to extend the power and promise of biomedical science to overcome debility without compromising our humanity. His arguments are acute and penetrating, melding sound logic with compassion. We emerge from this book feeling edified and inspired.”—Jerome Groopman, Harvard Medical School, author of How Doctors Think

“We live in a world, says Michael Sandel, where ‘science moves faster than moral understanding.’ But thanks to Sandel, moral understanding is catching up. Cloning, stem cell research, performance-enhancing drugs, pills that make you stronger or taller: if some scientific development bothers you, but you can’t explain why, Michael Sandel will help you to figure out why you’re troubled. And then he’ll tell you whether you should be.”—Michael Kinsley

“Michael Sandel has engaged in a bioethical debate that has produced similar front lines in Germany and in the USA…. [He] is after a philosophically illuminating explanation of the injunction not to convert all that is technically do-able into marketable technologies…. [His] eloquently presented…opinion on the question of the desirability and permissibility of eugenic changes in the human organism rests on a well thought-out neo-Aristotelian position.  This argumentative background gives the book a philosophical interest quite independent of the for-and-against of particular political decisions…. His analysis draws on the idea that eugenic practices undermine a ‘sense of giftedness’ that is indispensable for a civilized common life.” –Jürgen Habermas, preface to the German edition

Public Philosophy: Essays on Morality in Politics
Sandel Michael J. 2005. Public Philosophy: Essays on Morality in Politics, 304. Harvard University Press.Abstract

“Michael Sandel…believes that liberal appeals to individual rights and to the broad values of fairness and equality make a poor case for the progressive case, both as a matter of strategy and as a matter of principle. The country and the Democratic party would be better off, he thinks, if progressives made more of an effort to inspire the majority to adopt their vision of the common good and make it the democratic ground for public policy and law… Anyone concerned over the political success of conservatism in recent years must be interested in this critical analysis.”Thomas Nagel, The New York Review of Books

 “Two messages for progressives sear like bullets through Sandel’s collection of essays.  Firstly,…inevitable disagreement about the nature of the good society calls for progressives to engage with controversial moral questions—not to try to avoid them…. Secondly, by seeking to justify egalitarianism in individualistic, rights-based terms, Rawlsian liberals neglect cultivating the citizenship, solidarity and community on which liberty and equality depend…. In recapturing a moral voice for the liberal-left, it is Sandel who seems to offer a more persuasive way forward.” – Graeme Cook, Public Policy Research

 “Michael Sandel is one of the most prominent American political philosophers of the post-Rawlsian era…. No doubt liberals will feel discomforted by Sandel’s critiques of individualism, but the critiques have force and must be engaged; they cannot be dismissed as anti-liberal conservatism…. The text can be seen as a call to arms, most directly addressed to the American centre left, to try to win back the arena of values from the right.” – Philip A. Quadrio, Journal of Religious History

“Michael Sandel’s Public Philosophy: Essays on Morality in Politics provides a glimpse into the most influential and best-known debates in Anglo-American political philosophy of the last generation…. This text also provides a wide-ranging introduction to Sandel’s work in political theory and its link to the domain of everyday politics.” – Aaron Cooley, International Journal of Philosophical Studies

“Harvard political theorist Michael Sandel is among the most respected and nuanced of contemporary commentators on American liberalism…. Despite their disparate subjects, the essays cohere amazingly well, visiting from different angles the question of whether including moral and religious concepts in American political discourse is at odds with liberal goods and ideals…. Sandel’s academic essays engage difficult concepts lucidly and even handedly, and his consistently provocative popular commentaries not only discuss the importance of substantive public philosophy, they exemplify it, raising the level of our political and moral discourse in a supremely accessible manner.” – Timothy M. Renick, Religious Studies Review

“[Sandel] explains that our living in a pluralist society with differing moral ideals does not inhibit our discussion of issues like abortion and stem-cell research but instead helps us resolve them by looking at what it means to live ‘a good life.’ This thought-provoking book will be valuable to the general reader as well as scholars.”Scott Duimstra, Library Journal

 “Public Philosophy stands an integral text in the quest for recovering, and rediscovering, an ethically and morally responsible citizenry and political system.” – Jay M. Hudkins, Rhetoric & Public Affairs

“This new volume, which collects articles previously published between 1983 and 2004, provides a valuable overview of what Sandel calls his ‘public philosophy’… His arguments are broad-ranging, lucid, and sincere in their concern for our current public maladies. As such, they demand attention and engagement…. [Sandel] seeks to recover a politics rooted in the common good and the virtues necessary for broader and deeper civic engagement.”William Lund, Social Theory and Practice

“No matter what your politics are, you will find Michael Sandel’s Public Philosophy exciting, invigorating, discerning and encouraging. Conservatives will discover a liberalism they didn’t know existed: profoundly concerned with responsibility, community and the importance of individual virtue. Liberals and Democrats who know their side needs an engaging public philosophy will find its bricks and mortar, its contours and basic principles, right here in these pages. To a political debate that is too often dispiriting and sterile, Sandel has offered a brilliant and badly needed antidote.”E.J. Dionne, Jr., syndicated columnist, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, professor at Georgetown University

 “Michael Sandel can always be counted on to write with elegance and intelligence about important things. Whether you agree or not, you cannot ignore his arguments. We need all the sane voices we can get in the public square and Sandel’s is one of the sanest.”Jean Bethke Elshtain, The University of Chicago Divinity School

“Michael Sandel is one of the world’s best known and most influential political theorists. He is unusual for the range of practical ethical issues that he has addressed: life, death, sports, religion, commerce, and more. These essays are lucid, pointed, often highly subtle and revealing. Sandel has something important and worthwhile to say about every topic he addresses.”Stephen Macedo, Princeton University

Democracy's Discontent: America in Search of a Public Philosophy
Sandel Michael J. 1996. Democracy's Discontent: America in Search of a Public Philosophy. Belknap Press; English Language edition.Abstract

“Michael Sandel… has written an important book about the meaning of liberty. Sandel argues that over the last century, Americans have abandoned an earlier communitarian view of liberty, rooted in participation in self-government, for a narrower, individualistic definition, based on the power of personal choice. That has led to the great paradox of American politics: Just as Americans have become freer in the conduct of their personal lives, they have become more constrained in their public lives. The strength of Sandel’s book is his account of how this definition of liberty has changed over the last 200 years. He argues persuasively that the new definition reinforces undesirable trends in court decisions and public policy… Sandel argues brilliantly that the change in this definition of liberty took place after the Civil War and was based primarily on economic change… His analysis is superb… By revealing the shallowness of liberal and conservative views of democracy, [this book] inspires us to reevaluate what American politics is really about.”—John B. Judis, Washington Post Book World

“Among liberalism’s critics, few have been more influential or insightful than Michael Sandel, a proponent of what has come to be called the ‘communitarian’ alternative...In Democracy’s Discontent, Sandel… offer[s] a full historical account of the evolution of liberalism in the United States… This carefully argued, consistently thought-provoking book is grounded in a sophisticated understanding of past and present political debates. Democracy’s Discontent is well worth reading as we near yet another presidential election in which soundbites and poll-generated slogans substitute for reasoned debate about the nation’s future.”—Eric Foner, The Nation

“In times of trouble men and women ransack their past and their traditions. In Democracy’s Discontent… Michael Sandel… has raided that great American attic and returned with a bold narrative of the ancestors and the civic tradition they bequeathed… Sandel gives us one of the most powerful works of public philosophy to appear in recent years… [and] weaves a seamless web between the American present and the American past… [A] brilliant diagnosis.”—Fouad Ajami, U.S. News & World Report

“A profound contribution to our understanding of the present discontents.”—Paul A. Rahe, Wall Street Journal

“The publication of Michael Sandel’s Democracy’s Discontent is a long-awaited and important event in political and constitutional theory.  In 1982, through his first book, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, Sandel emerged as a leading communitarian or civic republican critic of liberalism…. What is distinctive about his new book is its application of the critique to an analysis of the competing liberal and republican strands of the American political and constitutional tradition.” – James E. Fleming & Linda C. McClain, Texas Law Review

Democracy’s Discontent is a wonderful example of immanent social criticism, which is to say, of social criticism as it ought to be written.  It criticizes a certain tendency in American life, and at the same time claims to find in that same American life a different possibility, a better expression of our political culture….  Sandel gives us a double narrative, part constitutional, part socio-economic, with a single message: that a certain kind of procedural liberalism has supplanted a more substantive republicanism, with effects that we ought to regret, and that it is still possible to turn back, to recapture important elements of republican America.”

-- Michael Walzer, in Debating Democracy’s Discontent (edited by Anita L. Allen and Milton C. Regan, Jr.)

“Sandel is a republican thinker in the classic sense, which means that he is just as much concerned with civic virtue as he is with liberty.  Like Thomas Jefferson, he understands the fate of the two to be intertwined.  Liberty, understood as the effective control of one’s destiny, is something that can only be realized through the exercise of self-government.” – R. Bruce Douglas, Commonweal

“American political discourse has become thin gruel because of a deliberate deflation of American ideals. So says Michael Sandel in a wonderful new book, Democracy’s Discontent… Sandel’s book will help produce what he desires—a quickened sense of the moral consequences of political practices and economic arrangements...Sandel is right to regret the missing moral dimension of public discourse. Or he was until recently. Suddenly politics has reacquired a decidedly Sandelean dimension. Political debate is reconnecting with the concerns Sandel so lucidly examines… Statecraft is again soulcraft, and the citizens who will participate best, and with most zest, will be the fortunate readers of Sandel’s splendid expansion of our rich political tradition.”—George F. Will, Newsweek

“It is the great achievement of Democracy’s Discontent to weave around… lofty abstractions a detailed, coherent and marvelously illuminating narrative of American political and legal history. Recounting the debates over ratifying the Constitution, chartering a national bank, abolishing slavery, the spread of wage labor, Progressive Era reforms and the New Deal, Sandel skillfully highlights the presence (and, increasingly, absence) of republican ideology, the shift from a ’political economy of citizenship’ to a political economy of growth.”—George Scialabba, Boston Globe

“A provocative new book… Democracy’s Discontent argues that modern democracies will not be able to sustain themselves unless they can find ways of contending with the global economy, while also giving expression to their people’s distinctive identities.”—Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times

“A rich and beautifully written account of American jurisprudence and political history, one which… is always informative and thought-provoking.”—Michael Rosen, Times Literary Supplement

“On ’public philosophy’ of the most philosophical kind I recommend Michael J. Sandel’s Democracy’s Discontent… Sandel is delightfully non- or bipartisan in his probes, chastenings and recommendations. Among those asking for a civil civic voice and a re-engagement with the grand themes of citizenship and the common life, he is a leader.”—Martin E. Marty, Christian Century

“This thoughtful book offers a mirror which reflects the complex organization of our political souls… Sandel assiduously draws upon the republican vision to recover forgotten dimensions of American history. He shows the importance of that tradition to the founding of America and, at least until very recently, to constitutional law.… These pages, full of reflective argument and vivid examples, will repay attention by anyone seeking to come to terms with the contemporary state of American politics.”—William Connolly, Raritan

“[Through] detailed historical analysis and eloquent prose, Sandel tells the story of the republican tradition in the United States that demonstrates the central importance character formation and civic virtue once had in American government.”—James F. Louckes III, Canadian Review of American Studies

Democracy’s Discontent… is a good guide to the awkward questions we need to ask as we lurch into the next century, as unsure as ever about how to make the democracy of the twenty-first century a shade less disconnected—or at least less pointlessly disconnected—than today’s… Indeed, this may well be one of those particularly valuable books that do more good to their skeptical readers than to their fans. The… former will have to think quite hard.”—Alan Ryan, Dissent

“Michael Sandel’s Democracy’s Discontent is by far the most ambitious recent attempt to make the civic republican tradition relevant to current dilemmas. It is entirely appropriate, then, that it has elicited…responses by many of the leading political and constitutional theorists of our time.” – Ronald S. Beiner, in Debating Democracy’s Discontent (edited by Anita L. Allen and Milton C. Regan, Jr.)

Democracy’s Discontent valuably traces the historical origins and development of what Sandel names the ’procedural republic’, the political model within which the unencumbered self reigns supreme… The strengths of [the book] lie in Sandel’s lucid exposition and analysis; more importantly, he is concerned with illuminating basic issues in political thought by actual historical examples and situations. In making full use of Supreme Court decisions, Sandel is acknowledging that much of the most vital American political thought is to be found in constitutional debates rather than academic treatises.”—Richard H. King, Political Studies

“Michael Sandel’s Democracy’s Discontent is an inspired and deeply disturbing polemic about citizenship… The last two-thirds of [the book]… explore with great historical acumen just how [liberalism and republicanism] have become manifest in the real world of labour, class and capitalist development. Sandel earns his theory by this history…. Michael Sandel’s is the most compelling…account I have read of how citizens might draw on the energies of everyday life and the ties of civil society to reinvigorate the public realm.”—Richard Sennett, Times Literary Supplement

“A bold and compelling critique of American liberalism that challenges us to reassess some basic assumptions about our public life and its dilemmas. It is a remarkable fusion of philosophical and historical scholarship, and it confirms Sandel’s reputation as one of America’s most important political theorists.”—Alan Brinkley, Columbia University

“An impressive work. It consolidates Sandel’s position as the leading American republican-communitarian critic of rights-based liberalism… A major figure in the world of political theory has written a major book.”—George Kateb, Princeton University

“Beautifully and mildly argued… Mr. Sandel conveys ideas with patient lucidity… The book’s strength is historical… Mr. Sandel’s philosophical take on history, however, does more than nudge us out of our contemporaneity. He shows, through close readings of Supreme Court decisions, how philosophical conceptions of the person changed—from a premise that an American will inherit a belief in God, for example, to one in which Americans are viewed as people whose religious faith is chosen like desserts at a restaurant… American history is, in Mr. Sandel’s telling, a story of the tragic loss of civic republicanism—the notion that liberty is not about freedom from government, but about the capacity for self-government, which alone makes the practice of freedom possible.”—Andrew Sullivan, New York Times Book Review

 “Sandel’s latest contribution… is notable for its seriousness, its intelligence and its illuminating excursions into constitutional law… His brand of soulcraft is not about soul-engineering, but about protecting social environments that are conducive to the development of the habits and the virtues upon which all liberal welfare states finally depend.”—Mary Ann Glendon, New Republic

“Distinctive merits of Sandel’s Democracy’s Discontent include its admirable combination of conceptual analysis and historical investigation, and the impression throughout of a genuinely thoughtful mind and generous spirit.”—Hilliard Aronovitch, Canadian Journal of Philosophy

“A wide-ranging critique of American liberalism that, unlike many other current books on the matter, seeks its restoration as a guiding political ethic… A book rich in ideas.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Out of step with many of his colleagues in the political science trade, Michael Sandel takes ideas and ideals seriously…. According to historians such as Louis Hartz, individualistic liberalism has long been the public philosophy of every major contender in the American political debate…. Contradicting this claim, other historians—notably Gordon Wood—find in American political thought since the founding a powerful communitarian current, which they call ‘republicanism.’ Where Sandel breaks new ground is in his claim that republicanism was in fact dominant throughout most of America’s history, and that only recently has it been superseded by individualistic liberalism.” – Samuel H. Beer, Wilson Quarterly

Democracy’s Discontent is clear, readable, and important…. The meticulous historico-philosophical analysis of key Supreme Court decisions, showing the historical transition from the republicanism of the past to the liberalism of today, is ingenious and enlightening.” – Joseph Tusa, Cross Currents

“Sandel here examines virtually the entire sweep of American history, searching assiduously for the wrong choices and missed opportunities that have led us into our present discontent.  The result is a work of impressive scope and ambition, and one which has already won praise from readers across the political spectrum.” – Wilfred McClay, Commentary

“In Democracy’s Discontent, Michael Sandel, the most widely cited political theorist of his generation, portrays contemporary Americans as discontented…. He traces [the discontent] to two concerns: a sense of ‘loss of self-government’ and a sense of ‘the erosion of community’…. The questions that motivate Sandel’s book and his answers to them are tremendously important.” – Rogers M. Smith, Critical Review

Liberalism and the Limits of Justice
Sandel Michael J. 1982. Liberalism and the Limits of Justice. ( 2nd Edition 1998) . Cambridge University Press.Abstract

“His is a new and authentic philosophical voice…. Michael Sandel’s elegantly argued book…describes what I take to be the reality of moral experience.” – Michael Walzer, The New Republic

“Sandel’s Liberalism and the Limits of Justice is a gracefully—even beautifully—written book that I would imagine is destined to be something of a classic on the subject.” – Chilton Williamson, Jr., National Review

“Sandel’s book is exemplary.  It is passionate and unrelenting, and yet meticulous and scrupulous in its argumentation…. [A]lways fair to its target, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice develops the best and most constructive interpretations with which to disagree…. It is the great virtue of this book, of its justness and generosity of spirit, that…one can come away from this book moved to deepen and improve the vision he criticizes.” – Charles Fried, Harvard Law Review 

“This brilliantly written critique of Rawls…can be read as an important contribution toward the reconstruction of liberal political theory.” – Steven M. DeLue, American Political Science Review 

“Sandel’s remarkable work forces us to take seriously the question: what kind of subjects must we be for our talk of justice and rights to make sense? He uncovers the strains and contractions in much contemporary liberalism. This is political philosophy on the level it should be written, confronting our moral beliefs with our best understanding of human nature.” – Charles Taylor, McGill University

“A genuinely important and philosophical book…written with style and precision…. Sandel’s account of friendship and self-knowledge is luminous.” – Ronald Beiner, Times Higher Education Supplement

“[S]ometimes soaring to exhilarating eloquence and flashes of insight…Liberalism and the Limits of Justice offers fresh and plausible readings of what politics is and might be.” – Stephen Whitfield, Worldview 

“Sandel [goes to] the heart of the epistemological confusions inherent in modern philosophical liberalism…. The real consequence of Sandel’s argument is…to reassert [the] fundamental lesson…that at the heart of all philosophy is political philosophy. – Mark Lilla, The Public Interest

“Sandel’s outstanding book is a significant and fascinating contribution…. Sandel’s point about the liberal conception of the self is exciting and significant in several ways.” – Richard Fentiman, Cambridge Law Journal

“Sandel offers an extended, very penetrating critique of what he calls the ‘deep individualism’ embedded in the premises of Rawlsian theory—and, more generally, in the foundations of liberal political theories which are influenced by Kantian moral philosophy.  This is fresh work of major importance to the ongoing discussion of justice and individualism….” – Norman Care, Noûs

“This clear and forceful book provides very elegant and cogent arguments against the attempt to use a certain conception of the self, a certain metaphysical view of what human beings are like, to legitimate liberal politics.” – Richard Rorty, in “The Priority of Democracy to Philosophy,” in Rorty, Objectivism, Relativism, and Truth 

“[John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice] is widely viewed as the most important work of political philosophy to be written in our time.  It certainly has been the most widely discussed.  Of all the commentary it has spawned, none has been more important than the critique offered by Michael Sandel in a book published in 1982 called Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, which succeeded in calling into question some of Rawls’s more fundamental premises.” – R. Bruce Douglass, Commonwealth 

“Sandel’s work builds very strongly on A Theory of Justice by John Rawls, taking its place as the next voice in the running conversation of political theory…. Where critiques are often used by their author as a means to build their own name up by tearing down someone else’s name, Sandel’s is such a careful study that it ends up enhancing the stature of the work it builds upon.” – Chistopher Budd, The Philosophers’ Magazine

“Even though Sandel is critical of Rawls, he is scrupulously fair and respectful…. One cannot read Liberalism and the Limits of Justice without acquiring a deeper and clearer understanding of Rawls’ theory…. Sandel’s impressive work…illuminates not only Rawls’ theory but also the nature of moral argument…. It is an outstanding achievement.” – William Powers, Texas Law Review