Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Interview with Michael Sandel

The new online journal "Art of Theory: A Political Philosophical Quarterly" features an interview with Professor Michael Sandel (Harvard):

12 Questions with Michael Sandel


Art of Theory: What features of our political life most puzzle you?
Sandel: I would say the largely arid terms of political discourse, the thinness of public discourse in the world’s leading democracies. That’s the single most striking and worrisome thing.
It’s partly the tendency, over the past three decades, of economics to crowd out politics. This has been an age of market triumphalism. We’ve come to the assumption that markets are the primary instruments for achieving the public good. I think that is a mistaken notion and people are now beginning to question that.
It also has led to political discourse being preoccupied with technocratic, managerial, economic concerns. The broader public questions and ethical questions have been crowded to the side. (....)
At the level of political theory (and this is what I’ve tried to do in some of my work), we need to challenge the premise that a pluralist society, or a society based on mutual respect, must avoid or set aside substantive moral and spiritual questions or questions of the good life.
Also at the level of political theory, I think there needs to be a challenge to economistic visions of democracy. (....)
Excellent political theory is determined by how interesting the question is. (....) After the question is chosen I am a methodological pluralist — a radical methodological pluralist — to the point where I don’t even think we could lay down any meaningful criteria for the right research method.

Michael Sandel is Professor of Government at Harvard University. His latest book is "Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009).

See some of my previous posts on Michael Sandel here, here, here & here.

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