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Never have I cited a book more in all my life as this book when in conversation with friends, family or just on Facebook. This book really gets to the bottom of our uneasiness toward our elected leaders and civilized American society in general. At the crux of the discussion is a fundamental argument that there is a tension between what is best for the common good versus what is best for the individual's interest. It has existed since the foundation of the United States and continues to this day with common good consistently loosing ground for the individual's self-interest gaining ground conceded by actions in society benefiting the common good.
Dr. Sandel explores history through the prism of political philosophy and he has held a great many talks and lectures (BBC Reith Lectures at Harvard University chief among them) on the topic (you can search for him on YouTube). They are always engaging and intriguing should you have a moment to watch. I would pick up this book again in a heartbeat. I highly recommend you do the same.
Had to read this book for class and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was surprised to see Sandal acknowledge that the Bill of Rights was intended to limit the federal government, not the states. Academics, historians, politicians and media have done a good job of burying this fact, and aside from constitutionalists, libertarians and Ron Paul supporters, you almost never find somebody who understands how the Bill of Rights is supposed to work in the federated republic.
Sandel presents interesting ideas in this book that hearken back to a Rousseau. To ensure the survival of the American Republic, Sandel recommends a return to community and self-government that has not been practiced in the United States for a long time.
In "Democracy's Discotent," the brilliant political philosopher Michael Sandel provides an overview of American legal history, jurisprudence, visions of citizenship, and economic policymaking through the lens of civic republicanism.
In fact, Sandel argues, civic republicanism represents much more than a mere strand among many woven into the philosophical fabric of America's founding and perpetuation: civic republican traditions (like cultivating the virtue of citizens, seeking economic justice, and making substantive judgments on controversial moral and political issues) are at the *heart* of our republic, and were prominently so until only very recently.
Sandel traces the emergence of liberalism as the dominant American public philosophy to a cluster of recent Supreme Court decisions and market-based economic policies. In explaining how liberalism has come to define and dominate the terms of the debate in articulating an American public philosophy, Sandel is cogent and persuasive. His brand of civic republicanism is as insightful as his criticisms of Rawlsian liberalism in "Liberalism and the Limits of Justice" but with greater so-called "real world" applicability.
Sandel is a public intellectual of the first order and this is a fine book of American legal, economic, and philosophical history. Highly recommended for students of political science.
Reviewed in the United States on December 21, 2005
This book needs another fifty to a hundred pages, particularly in the begining when Sandel contrast Liberalism and Republicanism at the theoretical level. Because of the brevety of the treatment of the subject many fundamental issues were over simplified. Further, I disagree with Sandel's conclusion (implied) that Holmesian jurisprudence formed a basis for contemporary liberalism. It certainly seems to me that, although some of Holmes' work is liberal, the "Lochner" jurisprudence that he was reacting against represented true liberal (in the libertarian sense) orthodoxy, and that the likes of John Harlan (which he views as representing republican values) posited the more exspansive view of liberalism.
Of particular interest is Sandel's pursuasive argument that this nation was not founded upon liberal pronciples, but rather republican principles.
All in all this is a good book, It just needed a little more development.
It needed a hundred more pages, particularly in the begining when he was contrasting Liberalism and Republicanism at the theoretical level. Because of the brevety of the treatment of the subject he seemed to over implify some very fundanental issues. Further, I disagree with the conclusion he seems to imply that Holmesian jurisprudence created a basis for contemporary liberalism. It certainly seems to me that, although some of Holmes' work is liberal, the "Lochner" jurisprudence that he was reacting against represented true liberal (in the libertarian sense) orthodoxy, and that the likes of John Harlan (which he views as representing republican values) posited the more exspansive view of liberalism. All in all this is a good book, It just needed a little more development.
Sandel provides a clear and enjoyable presentation of the communitarian version of republican political philosophy. Unfortunately, rather than offer a positive method by which the tradition of civic republicanism can be revived, this book merely presents a criticism of modern liberalism.
Reviewed in the United States on September 22, 2008
Sandel is an excellent theorist who offered brilliant analysis of 19th and 20th Century administrative developments in U.S. history. I learned a lot! The academic work's shelf life can also serve as potential resource backgrounders when or as needed.