Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 July, 2012, 12:00am


Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?
by Michael Sandel
Allen Lane (e-book)

It's little wonder Michael Sandel's course at Harvard University on justice is popular. Or that his teachings have been turned into a PBS television series and broadcast on BBC radio. Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? will suit readers wanting guidance on different ways of judging issues that make the news today: financial bailouts, bankers' bonuses, same-sex marriage, abortion, etc. Sandel begins by stating that to ask whether a society is just is like asking how it distributes the things we prize. The difficulty comes in determining the right way to value those things. He explains utilitarianism, libertarianism and communitarianism, arguing that he favours approaching justice as that which involves cultivating virtue and reasoning about the common good above the ideas of Jeremy Bentham (maximising welfare) and John Stuart Mill (respecting freedom of choice). He stresses that justice is always judgmental (and fraught with competing notions of honour and virtue) and argues for politics that tackles moral and spiritual questions and how they affect economic and civic concerns. This book may resemble a primer, but it will sustain your interest.