Michael J. Sandel -- is a Professor of Government at Harvard University, where he has taught political philosophy since 1980.  His course "Justice:  A Journey In Moral Reasoning" is one of the most popular in the country, having enrolled over 14,000 students. 


His most recent book, based on the course, was the subject of a 12-part PBS series in 2009, and cotinues to serve as an amazing learning resource online.


In his Video Op-Ed, Professor Sandel observes that the reason citizenship is so hollowed out in America is because most of us, most of the time, identify more as consumers than citizens.  Drawing on the history of democratic thought, he discusses the two critical aspects of citizenship -- knowing about public affairs, and caring about common good.  To do both effectively, he notes, we must keep ourselves well informed.

To that end, he comments on the decline of newspaper reading and how that corresponds with a decline in civic literacy and engagement -- and that step one on the road to shifting the balance back from consumer to citizen is reading the daily newspaper, which he considers the most important instrument of adult civic education, because it's the way citizens can learn about what's at stake, and thus help motivate us to take our jobs as citizens more seriously.

Profesor Sandel is also the author of six other books including Democracy's Discontent: America in Search of a Public Philosophy -- and Public Philosophy: Essays on Morality in Politics.  His essays have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, and New York Times.  He received his doctorate from Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.


Recently, Professor Sandel was invited to deliver the Reith Lectures on BBC Radio. The Reith Lectures are considered to be the most prestigious public lectures in Britain.  His four lectures, titled "A New Citizenship," addressed the prospect for a new politics of the common good, in which he makes the case for a moral and civic renewal in democratic politics, reinforcing his theme of thinking of ourselves as citizens, not just consumers. 


Citizens Or Consumers?

(TRT - 5:10)

by Michael J. Sandel