Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?

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Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?
Justice, what's the right thing to do.jpg
AuthorMichael Sandel
CountryUnited States
SubjectPolitical philosophy
Media typePrint

Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? is a 2009 book on political philosophy by Michael J. Sandel.


The work was written to accompany Sandel's famous "Justice" course at Harvard University which he has taught for more than thirty years and which has been offered online and in various TV summary versions. There is also an accompanying sourcebook of readings: Justice: A Reader.[1]


Sandel addresses a series of alternative theories of justice. The utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham is outlined and criticised and then John Stuart Mill's refinements are discussed. The libertarians, in particular Robert Nozick, and their arguments are discussed. Then Sandel discusses Immanuel Kant and his 'categorical imperative'. The discussion then goes on to John Rawls's work. Then Aristotle and the concept of 'telos' is discussed. It is here that Sandel begins to make clear his own perspective. He argues that justice, rather than being autonomous (as Kantians or Rawlsians might have it), has a goal: a form of communitarianism. Sandel quotes Alasdair MacIntyre and his characterisation of humans as being 'storytelling beings' who live their lives with narrative quests.


  • Sandel, Michael (2010). Justice: what's the right thing to do. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 9780374532505.
Other languages
Language Translator Translated title Publisher Year Catalogue numbers
Chinese (simplified) Zhu Huiling [朱慧玲] 公正:该如何做是好? Beijing: Citic Press Group [中信出版社] 2011 ISBN 9789868271265, OCLC 712612963
Chinese (traditional) Le Wei-liang [樂為良] 正義:一場思辨之旅 Taipei: Ars Longa Press [雅言文化出版有限公司] 2011 ISBN 9789868271265, OCLC 862888976
French Patrick Savidan Justice Paris: Albin Michel 2016 ISBN 9782226314994
German Helmut Reuter Gerechtigkeit: Wie wir das Richtige tun Berlin: Ullstein 2013 ISBN 9783550080098
Greek Alexandros Kioupkiolis [Αλέξανδρος Κιουπκιολής] Δικαιοσύνη — Τι είναι σωστό Athens: Polis (Πόλις) 2011 ISBN 9789604353040
Hungarian Felcsuti Péter Mi igazságos ...és mi nem? Budapest: Corvina Kiadó 2012 ISBN 9789631360486
Japanese Shinobu Onizawa [鬼澤忍] これからの「正義」の話をしよう : いまを生き延びるための哲学 Tokyo: Hayakawa Shobō [早川書房] 2010 ISBN 9784152091314, OCLC 703436661
Korean Yi Chang-shin [이창신] 정의란 무엇인가? Paju, Gyeonggi-do: Gimm-Young Publishers, Inc. [김영사] 2010 ISBN 9788934939603, OCLC 643112910
Portuguese Heloísa Matias, Maria Alice Máximo Justiça: O que é fazer a coisa certa Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira 2011 ISBN 9788520010303
Russian Aleksandr Kalinin [Александр Калинин] Справедливость. Как поступать правильно? Moscow: Mann, Ivanov & Ferber [Манн, Иванов и Фербер] 2013 ISBN 9785916578140
Turkish Mehmet Kocaoğlu Adalet Yapılması Gereken Doğru Şey Nedir? Ankara: BigBang Yayınları 2013 ISBN 9786054665020
Vietnamese Hồ Đắc Phương Phải trái đúng sai Ho Chi Minh City: Tre Publishing House 2011 OCLC 793005602
Arabic Marwan AlRasheed العدالة: ما الجديرُ أن يُعْمَل به؟ دار جداول للنشر والترجمة Jadawel Publishing House 2015 ISBN 9786144182901


Despite the controversial and polarizing nature of the material, the reviews have largely been positive. The New York Times praised Sandel's ability to teach and says, "If 'Justice' breaks no new philosophical ground, it succeeds at something perhaps no less important: in terms we can all understand, it confronts us with the concepts that lurk, so often unacknowledged, beneath our conflicts."[2] The Guardian calls it a "timely plea for us to desist from political bickering and see if we can have a sensible discussion about what sort of society we really want to live in."[3] The Portsmouth Review calls it an "enlightening read".[4]


  1. ^ Sandel, Michael (2007). Justice: a reader. Oxford New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195335125.
  2. ^ Rauch, Jonathan (2009-11-27). "Book Review | 'Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?,' by Michael J. Sandel". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-11-03.
  3. ^ Reé, Jonathan (2009-11-01). "Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? by Michael Sandel | Book review". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 2017-11-03.
  4. ^ Skane, Rebecca (2017-09-25). "Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? by Michael J. Sandel Book Review | The Portsmouth Review". The Portsmouth Review. Archived from the original on 2018-01-30. Retrieved 2017-11-03.