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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
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, 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”...His arguments are broad-ranging, lucid, and sincere in their concern for our current public maladies. As such, they demand attention and engagement.
— William Lund
Part I. American Civic Life
1. America's Search for a Public Philosophy
2. Beyond Individualism: Democrats and Community
3. The Politics of Easy Virtue
4. Big Ideas
5. The Problem with Civility
6. Impeachment—Then and Now
7. Robert F. Kennedy's Promise
Part II. Moral and Political Arguments
8. Against State Lotteries
9. Commercials in the Classroom
10. Branding the Public Realm
11. Sports and Civic Identity
12. History for Sale
13. The Market for Merit
14. Should We Buy the Right to Pollute?
15. Honor and Resentment
16. Arguing Affirmative Action
17. Should Victims Have a Say in Sentencing?
18. Clinton and Kant on Lying
19. Is There a Right to Assisted Suicide?
20. Embryo Ethics: The Moral Logic of Stem Cell Research
21. Moral Argument and Liberal Toleration: Abortion and Homosexuality
Part III. Liberalism, Pluralism, and Community
22. Morality and the Liberal Ideal
23. The Procedural Republic and the Unencumbered Self
24. Justice as Membership
25. The Peril of Extinction
26. Dewey's Liberalism and Ours
27. Mastery and Hubris in Judaism: What's Wrong with Playing God?
28. Political Liberalism
29. Remembering Rawls
30. The Limits of Communitarianism