Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?


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


"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)

See also: Justice
Last updated on 08/16/2016