Michael Sandel

(Michael J. Sandel)

Michael Sandel
Michael Sandel
  • Born: March 5, 1953
  • Nationality: American
  • Profession: Philosopher

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Michael J. Sandel is an American political philosopher. He is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government Theory at Harvard University Law School, where his course Justice was the university's first course to be made freely available online and on television. It has been viewed by tens of millions of people around the world, including in China, where Sandel was named the "most influential foreign figure of the year" (China Newsweek). He is also known for his critique of John Rawls' A Theory of Justice in his first book, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (1982).

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A market economy is a tool—a valuable and effective tool—for organizing productive activity. A market society is a way of life in which market values sweep into every aspect of human endeavor. It is a place where social relations are made over in the image of the market. Economics, The Economy & Fiscal Affairs
A nonjudgmental stance toward values lies at the heart of market reasoning, and explains much of the appeal. But our reluctance to engage in moral and spiritual argument, together with our embrace of markets, has extracted a heavy price; it has drained the public discourse of moral and civic energy, and contributed to the technocratic, managerial politics afflicting many societies today. Morality, Ethics & Conflict of Interest
In its own way, market reasoning also empties public life of moral argument. Part of the appeal of markets is that they don’t pass judgment on the preferences they satisfy. Economics, The Economy & Fiscal Affairs
Democracy does not require perfect equality, but it does require that citizens share a common life. What matters is that people of different backgrounds and social positions encounter one another, and bump up against one another, in the course of ordinary life. Life ;Equality & Equal Opportunity
I almost became a political journalist, having worked as a reporter at the time of Watergate. The proximity to those events motivated me, when I wound up doing philosophy, to try to use it to move the public debate. Time
I am fortunate to have enough money not to have to worry about the necessities of life. Beyond that, I try to think about money as little as possible. Life ;Money, Coins & Minting
I find this in all these places I've been travelling - from India to China, to Japan and Europe and to Brazil - there is a frustration with the terms of public discourse, with a kind of absence of discussion of questions of justice and ethics and of values.
I grew up in a Jewish family, and we have raised our children in a Jewish tradition. Religion gives a framework for moral enquiry in young minds and points us to questions beyond the material. Religion & God ;Families, Children & Parenting
If you pay a child a dollar to read a book, as some schools have tried, you not only create an expectation that reading makes you money, you also run the risk of depriving the child for ever of the value of it. Markets are not innocent. Money, Coins & Minting
My main quarrel with liberalism is not that liberalism places great emphasis on individual rights - I believe rights are very important and need to be respected. The issue is whether it is possible to define and justify our rights without taking a stand on the moral and even sometimes religious convictions that citizens bring to public life. Life
One of the appeals of markets, as a public philosophy, is they seem to spare us the need to engage in public arguments about the meaning of goods. So markets seem to enable us to be non-judgmental about values. But I think that's a mistake.
The responsibility of political philosophy that tries to engage with practice is to be clear, or at least accessible.
The simplest way of understanding justice is giving people what they deserve. This idea goes back to Aristotle. The real difficulty begins with figuring out who deserves what and why.
To argue about justice is unavoidably to argue about virtues, about substantive moral and even spiritual questions.
When I arrived at Harvard, I wanted to design a course in political theory that would have interested me, back when I was started out, in a way that the standard things didn't.
Whether you're a libertarian liberal or a more egalitarian liberal, the idea is that justice means being non-judgmental with respect to the preferences people bring to public life. Life ;Respect
You can't go wrong with fish and chips.