Debating Democracy's Discontent: Essays on American Politics, Law, and Public Philosophy
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Here, a distinguished cast of some the world's finest political and legal theorists offer criticisms of Michael Sandel's Democracy's Discontent, a recent, popular, and influential call for a more moralistic democracy. In this collection, Sandel's liberal and feminist critics square off with his communitarian and civic republican sympathizers in a lively and wide-ranging discussion that spans constitutional law, culture, and political economy. Such practical, topical issues as immigration, gay marriage, federalism, adoption, abortion, corporate speech, militias, and economic disparity are debated alongside theories of civic virtue, citizenship, identity, and community. Not only does Debating Democracy's Discontent afford the most comprehensive and insightful critique to date of Sandel's volume, it also makes a significant, substantive contribution to contemporary political and legal philosophy in its own right. This book will prove essential to all who are interested in the future of American politics, law, and public philosophy.
Sandel's own project the strictures he applies to Justice Stevens's appeal to the liberal and voluntarist public philosophy? Immediately after the words we quoted above, in which Sandel rejects Stevens's attempt to claim the liberal outlook as the only truly American or even authentically democratic outlook, Sandel goes on to observe of this liberal public philosophy that any role it may play in the justification of liberalism must therefore depend on moral argument, not cultural interpretation
public good. Rights and groups. Individual rights can collide with claims made by, or on behalf of, groups. One type of conflict occurs when the simple fact of membership in a particular group serves as the basis for claiming social goods. A portion of recent debates over affirmative action revolves around the moral significance of group membership: should the children of an AfricanAmerican lawyer receive any preferences over the children of a white coalminer in the distribution of educational
competent master appeared, in his workshop relations, as the quintessence of independence, free to exercise his virtue uncorrupted "38 Skidmore, who enjoyed brief political success as the leader of the Working Men of 1829, married republican egalitarian language with language from religion. Starting from the premise that souls had an identical relationship with "the Creator," he reasoned each had an equal claim to the Creator's endowment. Is the work of creation to be let out on hire? And are the
most recent decades, both sides in each debate appealed to civic considerations (what organization of economic and political life will form better citizens?), but the clear implication of his narrative is that the outcome of these debates has pushed the civic impulse right outside the bounds of contemporary American political life. In every one of these stories, the bad guys win and the goods guys lose. My impression is that Sandel wants more than anything to write a hopeful book; but the tale he
reading the book that he does very much want to.24 If "public philosophy" got us into this mess, then public philosophy can somehow show us the way out of it. Overall, the narrative of the book, the rather discouraging story it tells about the social and economic process whereby American life has been relentlessly "modemified," seems to me a lot more persuasive than the book's implicit promise that political theory can offer a source of civic edification. This is not to say that modern citi-