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Book Review

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University of Texas School of Law




The publication of Michael J. Sandel's Democracy's Discontent: America in Search of a Public Philosophy is a long-awaited and important event in political and constitutional theory. In 1982, through his first book, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice,1 Sandel emerged as a leading communitarian or civic republican critic of liberalism. That book became prominent, not because its criticisms of liberalism were dispositive, but because it eloquently and elegantly captured discontent with liberalism and evoked yearnings for an alternative. Since then, Sandel has occupied a position on the American intellectual landscape as a placeholder for a *510 communitarian or civic republican alternative not yet fully developed. In Democracy's Discontent, he carries forward his critique of liberalism. What is distinctive about his new book is its application of the critique to an analysis of the competing liberal and republican strands of the American political and constitutional tradition. Sandel calls for a reinvigoration of the republican strand and intimates a republican constitutional theory. Meanwhile, some prominent constitutional theorists, including Cass R. Sunstein, have sought to develop a synthesis of liberalism and republicanism, and Sunstein's recent book, Legal Reasoning and Political Conflict,2 puts forward a model of legal reasoning appropriate for a liberal republic.


This is a book review/analysis written by James Fleming and Linda McClain, regarding both Michael J. Sandel's Democracy's Discontent: America in Search of a Public Philosophy and Cass Sunstein's Legal Reasoning and Political Conflict.



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