Twenty-five years after his prescient Democracy’s Discontent, Michael Sandel updates his classic work for our more fractious age. He shows how, since the 1990s, Democrats and Republicans embraced a market faith that led to the toxic politics of our time. To rescue democracy, he argues, we must reimagine the economy and revitalize the civic project.
Americans have lost faith in the possibility of self-government, and they are frightened by the disintegration of community they see happening all around them. Twenty-six years since Democracy’s Discontent was first published, Sandel writes that this way of thinking has brought us to a political precipice—a moment when the combination of frayed social bonds and intense political polarization calls into question the very future of the American experiment.
Few books are as relevant a quarter-century after their appearance as when published—but Michael Sandel has made his classic Democracy’s Discontent even more so. Rethinking how the political economy of the middle of the twentieth century has mutated to the detriment of American citizenship, substituting consumerism and globalization for community and self-rule, this is a touchstone study for our times.
Michael Sandel’s deeply insightful analysis of the erosion of the political economy of citizenship has never been more timely than at the present moment. Essential—and ultimately hopeful—reading for all those who wonder if our democratic experiment will survive in the twenty-first century.
Michael J. Sandel is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government at Harvard University and author of The Tyranny of Merit. His freely available online course “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” has been viewed by tens of millions of people around the world.