Michael J Sandel

Michael J Sandel Biography

There’s no question that many experts making decisions believe they’re making the right decisions when it comes to safeguarding a populous, managing immigration or tackling a political system in the right way.

However, there are those who can be just as opposed to such moves, which often leads to political conflict in some instances.

During these times, it can be difficult for people to know why they stand. For example, some may be keen to see through the political process, while others may be more concerned about the moral implications.

When there’s little clarity in what each side is offering, many rely on philosophers to make sense of the chaos and offer theories on what makes an approach positive or detrimental.

American-born Michael J Sandel is a political philosopher and produced one of the first Harvard University online courses that were freely available. “Justice” went on to be viewed by millions of people around the world via television and the Internet.

As well as Justice, Sandel is also recognised for his 1982 book “Liberalism and the Limits of Justice” that critiqued “A Theory of Justice,” a 1971 book by John Rawls that addressed the issues surrounding distributive justice that uses a guise of the Kantian philosophy partnered with conventional social contract theory.

Michael J Sandel

The Early Days of Michael J Sandel

Born in 1953 in Minneapolis to a Jewish family, he relocated to New York at the age of 13. When attending Palisades High School, he was made the president of his senior class, before moving on to Brandeis University and graduating Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor’s degree in politics in 1975.

Sandel also received a doctorate from Balliol College, Oxford in 1981 as a Rhode Scholar.

The Type of Philosophy Michael J Sandel Follows

It has been said that Sandel subscribes to communitarianism, a philosophy that enforces the connection between an individual and the community. However, Sandel himself is said to be uncomfortable with this label.

Sandel’s first published works “Liberalism and the Limits of Justice” critiqued John Rawls’ “A Theory of Justice” stating that the veil of ignorance mentioned in the book impossible, even in a hypothetical sense.

The works of Rawls suggest that when making choices about society it should be done via a veil of ignorance which would lead people to make a decision that can’t be tailored to their own advantage, thus creating a just society.

A cited example is the bond created between families. As this is not a conscious choice, we are simply born into it, it can be difficult to remove these ties.

As such, Sandel believes that discussion should take place that employs a looser version of the veil.

Although Sandel wasn’t the only one to critique Rawls’ work, it did contribute to Rawls arguing his theory, stating that it wasn’t a metaphysical theory but rather a political one.

The Teachings of Michael J Sandel

After joining the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard in 1981, Sandel went on to teach “Justice” for the next twenty years.

During this time, over 15,000 students had taken the course, making it one of Harvard’s most attended classes.

Sandel has also been a visiting profession at the Sorbonne, as well as delivering the Tanner Lectures at Oxford, and the Kellogg Lecture on Jurisprudence at the US Library of Congress.

As well as being taught in Harvard University, the course was also abridged into twelve-episode television series that was a co-production between Harvard University and WGBH entitled “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” that aired on PBS.

Following it’s airing, the twelve episodes were made available via Sandel’s website. There was also a book released in conjunction with the series as well as a book of readings called “Justice: A Reader.”

Segments were also aired via BBC Four, followed by a podcast on BBC Radio Four called “The Public Philosopher” which was also fronted by Sandel.

The popularity of Justice meant that it soon found its way onto edX, a massive open online course provider that’s a non-profit organisation.

Following a letter from San Jose State University that protested the use of platforms like edX, Sandel replied that it was something that deserved debate, and the last thing he would want to do is hinder universities facing budgetary pressure.

The talks held by Sandel have seen him as a keynote speaker in several continents, and has performed in venues such as St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, The Public Theatre in New Yok and the outdoor stadium in Seoul, South Korea.

Michael J Sandel speaker

Further Teachings of Michael J Sandel

Sandel has co-taught with Douglas A. Melton, a Professor at Harvard University and investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The co-efforts created the “Ethics and Biotechnology” seminar, which examined the implication of biotechnological procedures.

Michael J Sandel Becomes an Author

As well as Sandel’s work circulating the Internet, television and radio, he has gone onto to write several books that deal with similar subject matters.

In 1981 he released “Liberalism and Its Critics” contained statements of rights-based liberalism as well as republic alternatives to that position.

Sandel gives an overview of his vision of citizenship in 1996’s “Democracy’s Discontent: America in Search of a Public Philosophy” stated the defects of politics were in the vision of citizenship shared by the Democrats and Republicans at the time.

He also stated that American politics had lost its voice, meaning that both liberals and conservatives had been able to enforce any sense of community that’s needed for self-government.

In 2000, Sandel contributed to “The Essential Civil Society Reader: The Classic Essays” that brought together reading from a selection of leading scholars and organisers and focused on those that have brought the civil society debate to the masses.

2005’s “Public Philosophy Essays on Morality in Politics” shone a light on some of the most contested issues of the time, including assisted suicide and gay rights.

“Encountering China: Michael Sandel and Chinese Philosophy” looks at how communitarian ideas have similar aspects to Chinese philosophical traditions.

Although cited as a thinker of unusual prominence in the West, the Chinese community have taken Sandel on as a phenomenon, as they been able to guide the country through ethical dilemmas with great ease.

As well as English editions of his work being created, Sandel also saw his work translated not several other languages, including French, Greek, Russian and Chinese.

Michael J Sandel’s Media Coverage

Given the scope of Sandel’s work, it should come as no surprise that many media outlets have been speak to him regarding certain political aspect.

Harper’s Magazine conducted an interview with Sandel in 2010 in which he was asked six questions, where subjects included the question of the draft as a moral issue and his criticism of political liberals.

A 2012 article in The Guardian interviewed Sandel while he was promoting “What Money Can’t Buy” where he said the populous had moved on from having a market economy and became a market solution.

As such, the application of human activity is monetised where value judgements fall by the wayside. Examples cited included schools paying children to read and solo drivers purchasing the right to use carpool lanes.

Awards and Honours Bestowed on Sandel

During his teachings and authorship, Sandel has received several awards and honours throughout his career which are as follows:

·         Harvard-Radcliffe Phi Neta Kappa Teaching Prize – 1985

·         Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award – Shortlist: 2012

·         Foreign Policy Machine – Top Global Thinker: 2012

·         Utrecht University Honorary Doctorate: 2014

·         Premio Princesa de Asturias de las Ciencias Sociales: 2018

Commentary on 2009 Immigration Policy

In 2009, Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary Beck released a market immigration proposal that looked to impose refugee quotas based on wealth, with the richer countries able to pay the poorer to take on larger quota.

Sandel criticised this approach, stating that a market created in refuges changes the views of refugees are, which could lead them to be seen as sources of revenue