Michael J. Sandel, Public Philosophy: Essays on Morality in Politics (Book Review) - Social Theory and Practice

Michael J. Sandel, Public Philosophy: Essays on Morality in Politics (Book Review)

By Social Theory and Practice

  • Release Date: 2007-07-01
  • Genre: Religion & Spirituality
  • Size: 187.48 KB

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Michael J. Sandel, Public Philosophy: Essays on Morality in Politics (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2005), 292 pp. Are the key values and beliefs that drive democracy in the United States sufficient to cope with our current problems? Since publishing his first book in 1982, (1) Michael Sandel has offered a negative answer to that question by focusing on what he sees as widespread feelings of anxiety emerging from citizens' recognition that they are unable to shape either their personal or their collective environments. He roots that pathology in our uncritical acceptance of rights, fairness, and individual choice as the hard parameters of legitimate politics, and proposes instead a return to a pre-liberal perfectionism that emphasizes responsibility, civic duty, and the common good. This new volume, which collects articles previously published between 1983 and 2004, provides a valuable overview of what Sandel calls his "public philosophy." He sees it as "public" both in providing philosophical analyses of concrete legal and political controversies, and, since many of the essays first appeared in non-academic outlets, in doing "philosophy in public" by aiming at "citizens as well as scholars." His general goal is to convince us that a "substantive moral discourse" that engages the full range of ethical and religious beliefs in the society need not risk "intolerance and coercion" (5). His arguments are broad-ranging, lucid, and sincere in their concern for our current public maladies. As such, they demand attention and engagement.

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