Democracy's Discontent: America in Search of a Public Philosophy

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Harvard University Press, Feb 6, 1998 - History - 417 pages
Despite the success of American life in the last half-century—unprecedented affluence, greater social justice for women and minorities, the end of the Cold War—our politics is rife with discontent. Americans are frustrated with government. We fear we are losing control of the forces that govern our lives, and that the moral fabric of community—from neighborhood to nation—is unraveling around us. What ails democracy in America today, and what can be done about it? Democracy’s Discontent traces our political predicament to a defect in the public philosophy by which we live. In a searching account of current controversies over the role of government, the scope of rights and entitlements, and the place of morality in politics, Michael Sandel identifies the dominant public philosophy of our time and finds it flawed. The defect, Sandel maintains, lies in the impoverished vision of citizenship and community shared by Democrats and Republicans alike. American politics has lost its civic voice, leaving both liberals and conservatives unable to inspire the sense of community and civic engagement that self-government requires. In search of a public philosophy adequate to our time, Sandel ranges across the American political experience, recalling the arguments of Jefferson and Hamilton, Lincoln and Douglas, Holmes and Brandeis, FDR and Reagan. He relates epic debates over slavery and industrial capitalism to contemporary controversies over the welfare state, religion, abortion, gay rights, and hate speech. Democracy’s Discontent provides a new interpretation of the American political and constitutional tradition that offers hope of rejuvenating our civic life.

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DEMOCRACY'S DISCONTENT: America in Search of a Public Philosophy

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A wide-ranging critique of American liberalism that, unlike many other current books on the matter, seeks its restoration as a guiding political ethic. ``Despite the achievements of American life in ... Read full review

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Interesting examination of the erosion of (small 'r') republican values and exploration of how the virtue of civic participation might be restored. Lends an interesting alternative perspective to contemporary (and historical) political discourse. Read full review


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Free Labor versus Wage Labor
Community SelfGovernment and Progressive Reform
Liberalism and the Keynesian Revolution
The Triumph and Travail of the Procedural Republic
In Search of a Public Philosophy

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About the author (1998)

Michael J. Sandel is Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government at Harvard University.

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