The Tyranny of Merit: What's Become of the Common Good?
The Annual Herbert W. Vaughan Lecture on America’s Founding Principles
Michael J. Sandel, Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government, Harvard University, and Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, Princeton University
A conversation on The Tyranny of Merit: What's Become of the Common Good? by Michael Sandel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020).
The world-renowned philosopher and author of the bestselling Justice explores the central question of our time: What has become of the common good?
These are dangerous times for democracy. We live in an age of winners and losers, where the odds are stacked in favor of the already fortunate. Stalled social mobility and entrenched inequality give the lie to the American credo that "you can make it if you try". The consequence is a brew of anger and frustration that has fueled populist protest and extreme polarization, and led to deep distrust of both government and our fellow citizens--leaving us morally unprepared to face the profound challenges of our time.
World-renowned philosopher Michael J. Sandel argues that to overcome the crises that are upending our world, we must rethink the attitudes toward success and failure that have accompanied globalization and rising inequality. Sandel shows the hubris a meritocracy generates among the winners and the harsh judgement it imposes on those left behind, and traces the dire consequences across a wide swath of American life. He offers an alternative way of thinking about success--more attentive to the role of luck in human affairs, more conducive to an ethic of humility and solidarity, and more affirming of the dignity of work. The Tyranny of Merit points us toward a hopeful vision of a new politics of the common good.
Michael J. Sandel is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government at Harvard University, where he has taught political philosophy since 1980. At Harvard, his courses include "Ethics, Biotechnology, and the Future of Human Nature," "Ethics, Economics, and Law," and "Globalization and Its Critics." His undergraduate course, "Justice," was the first Harvard course to be made freely available online (www.JusticeHarvard.org) and on public television. It has been viewed by tens of millions of people around the world. A recipient of the Harvard-Radcliffe Phi Beta Kappa Teaching Prize, Sandel was recognized by the American Political Science Association in 2008 for a career of excellence in teaching. He has been a visiting professor at the Sorbonne (Paris), delivered the Tanner Lectures on Human Values at Oxford University, and in 2009 delivered the BBC Reith Lectures. From 2002 to 2005, he served on the President's Council on Bioethics. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2010, China Newsweek named him the "most influential foreign figure of the year" in China. His most recent book is The Tyranny of Merit: What's Become of the Common Good? (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020). He is also author of What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012), Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (Cambridge University Press, 1982, 2nd edition, 1998), Democracy's Discontent (Harvard University Press, 1996), Public Philosophy: Essays on Morality in Politics (Harvard University Press, 2005), and The Case against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering (Harvard University Press, 2007). His work has been translated into 27 languages. A graduate of Brandeis University, Professor Sandel received his doctorate from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.
Robert P. George holds Princeton University's McCormick Chair in Jurisprudence and is the Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. He has served as chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), and before that on the President’s Council on Bioethics and as a presidential appointee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights. He has also served as the U.S. member of UNESCO’s World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST). He is a former Judicial Fellow at the Supreme Court of the United States, where he received the Justice Tom C. Clark Award. A graduate of Swarthmore College, he holds M.T.S. and J.D. degrees from Harvard University and the degrees of D.Phil., B.C.L., D.C.L., and D.Litt. from Oxford University.