Sandel on Solidarity and Plurality

I’m still thinking through Michael Sandel’s Liberalism and the Limits of Justice

While solidarity is not specifically a criticism Sandel levels at Rawls’ A Theory of Justice, it is surely implied (and shows up in many communitarian critiques of liberalism). In one sense, by claiming that the state ought not be neutral on certain debates about the good, Sandel can (at least theoretically) address the issue. Solidarity can be achieved by collective agreement about, or willingness to be governed by, a particular conception of the good. A single conception can have a unifying effect.

Yet while Sandel at least theoretically solves the dilemma of solidarity he incurs another, which is a major strength of Rawslian liberalism: plurality. I’m not satisfied that Sandel’s admittedly brief constructive account in this book adequately accounts for the pluralism intrinsic to modern society, nor is it clear how his proposal might be able to do so…

Perhaps this can be phrased as a question: is Sandel in any sense a liberal (carving out space for individual autonomy and responsibility)? And, if so, how?


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