Michael Sandel

Michael Sandel, the Harvard political philosopher, talked this evening about the topic of his most recent book on the subject of What Money Can’t Buy:  the moral limits of markets, first published in 2012 and based on his Reith Lectures.   It was an amazing performance, using the Socratic method (now the Harvard method) of using the audience to vote and then argue about moral issues.   The first one was whether or not the city of Detroit faced by bankruptcy should plunder the pension payments of long-standing city employees or sell works from the Detroit Institute of Fine Arts.   The vote was split.   The argument was fierce and articulate about what value should be placed on works of art and to what extent they can, and should, be treated as commodities.   The second issue was the extent to which citizenship should be available for purchase to the highest bidder, a case study from his book.   Again there was rich discussion.   It hardly needed the concluding remarks about the impoverishment of public discourse;  and the alienation which results from the dependence of economists on markets as an instrument to determine the allocation of public goods.


5 thoughts on “Michael Sandel

  1. Congratulations. It was indeed a splendid evening and a virtuoso performance of this method of discourse : a wonderful start to the RA debates that the support of Jacob Rothschild is going to make possible.

  2. How terrific that you are taking the RA into this kind of debate. Can you do more of it? Could you perhaps arrange joint sessions with a think tank such as Chatham House to continue explore great moral issues of this kind?

      • David French says:

        That’s great news. It’s wonderful to see the RA emerging into the next stage of its illustrious development in this way, and the periodic updates and photos of the works are exciting for any interested Friend/onlooker. Thank you!

  3. It is indeed great news, and hugely to the credit of the RA. But important though ensuring a wider political and philosophical context for the future of the development of Art and Architecture is, surely the central responsibility for the RA is to further thinking about the Visual Arts and Architecture, as Reynolds had done in the first fifteen years of the Academy in the 18th century ?

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