Liberalism and the Limits of Justice

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Liberalism and the Limits of Justice
Liberalism and the Limits of Justice.jpg
The 1998 Cambridge University Press edition
Author Michael Sandel
Country United States
Language English
Subject Political philosophy
Genre Non-fiction
Published 1982 (Cambridge University Press)
Media type Print
Pages 231
ISBN 0-521-56741-6

Liberalism and the Limits of Justice is a book by Michael Sandel, first published in 1982, with a second edition in 1998.[1]


Sandel criticizes the social democratic liberals John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin, arguing that their views rest on anti-liberal collectivist foundations and are incompatible with the elements of liberal individualism they espouse. He offers a communitarian critique of liberalism, arguing that individuals are constituted by their communities and the obligations that follow from being part of them.[2] Partly inspired by Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia, Sandel argues that Rawls bases his political philosophy on an untenable metaphysics of the self.[3] In Sandel's view, Rawls's philosophy shares the metaphysical assumptions of Kantian ethics, in which a purely noumenal self that is detached from all empirical constraints somehow retains motives that enable it to make choices.[4]

Scholarly reception[edit]

Sandel's best-known work, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice helped start the liberalism-communitarianism debate that dominated Anglo-American political philosophy in the 1980s.[5] Sandel has been credited with providing the fullest development of the argument, which other writers have also made, that Rawls bases his political philosophy on an untenable metaphysics of the self.[3]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Sandel 1998. p. iv.
  2. ^ Boaz 1998. pp. 449-450.
  3. ^ a b Wolff 1991. p. 121.
  4. ^ Scruton 1994. pp. 321, 411.
  5. ^ Kymlicka 1995. p. 788.


  • Boaz, David (1998). Boaz, David, ed. The Libertarian Reader: Classic and contemporary writings from Lao-tzu to Milton Friedman. New York: The Free Press. ISBN 0-684-84767-1. 
  • Kymlicka, Will (1995). Honderich, Ted, ed. The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-866132-0. 
  • Sandel, Michael (1998). Liberalism and the Limits of Justice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-56741-6. 
  • Scruton, Roger (1994). Sexual Desire: A Philosophical Investigation. London: Phoenix. ISBN 1-85799-100-1. 
  • Wolff, Jonathan (1991). Robert Nozick: Property, Justice and the Minimal State. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-1856-3.