A Critical Reflection on Michael J. Sandel: Rethinking Communitarianism

Main Article Content

Wanpat Youngmevittaya


This is a research in political theory, aiming to reinterpret the political philosophy of Michael J. Sandel, a prominent communitarian of our time. In contrast to the cultural relativism thesis, which holds that Sandel bases the moral judgement on any given culture/tradition of each community, and the deliberative democracy thesis, which holds that Sandel bases the moral judgement on the rational majority, I argue that Sandel's communitarianism is a virtue-based theory, addressing the critical enquiry of the teleology of the social practices in question; the moral judgement is based on the telos of the social practices in question which determines what's the right thing to do in general, while the actual identity of the person determined by the community is important as a second-order as it simply tells us who we should have a moral obligation with in particular.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
Youngmevittaya, W. (2019). A Critical Reflection on Michael J. Sandel: Rethinking Communitarianism. Journal of Social Sciences Naresuan University, 15(1), 15_83–116. Retrieved from https://so04.tci-thaijo.org/index.php/jssnu/article/view/201349
Review Paper


Aristotle. 2009. The Nicomachean Ethics. Tr. David Ross. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
_______. 1995. The Politics. Tr. Ernest Barker. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Arthur, James, and Richard Bailey. 2000. Schools and Community: The Communitarian
Agenda in Education. London: Falmer Press.
Baker, Edwin. 1985. “Sandel On Rawls.” University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 133: 895-928.
Becker, Gary S. 1976. The Economic Approach to Human Behavior. Chicago: University of
Chicago Press.
Beiner, Ronald S. 1998. “Introduction: The Quest for a Post-Liberal Public Philosophy.” In
Debating Democracy’s Discontent: Essays on American Politics, Law, and Public Philosophy,
eds. Anita L. Allen and Milton C. Regan Jr., 1-13. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Beiser, Frederick. 2005. Hegel. New York: Routledge.
Benhabib, Seyla. 1994. “Deliberative Rationality and Modes of Democratic Legitimacy.”
Constellations, 1(1): 26-52.
Caney, Simon. 1991. “Sandel’s Critique of the Primacy of Justice: A Liberal Rejoinder.”
British Journal of Political Science, 21(4): 511-521.
——. 1992. “Liberalism and Communitarianism: a Misconceived Debate.” Political Studies,
XL: 273-289.
Crittenden, Jack. 1992. Beyond Individualism: Reconstituting the Liberal Self. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
Demaine, Jack, and Harold Entwistle, eds. 1996. Beyond Communitarianism: Citizenship,
Politics and Education. London: Macmillan Press.
Doppelt, Gerald. 1990. “Beyond Liberalism and Communitarianism: Towards A Critical Theory
of Social Justice.” In Universalism vs. Communitarianism: Contemporary Debates in
Ethics, ed. David M. Rasmussen, 39-60. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Dworkin, Ronald. 1977a. Taking Rights Seriously. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
________. 1977b. “Why Bakke Has No Case.” New York Review of Books, November, 10: 11-15.
________. 1985. A Matter of Principle. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Etzioni, Amitai. 1998. “Introduction: A Matter of Balance, Rights and Responsibilities.” In
The Essential Communitarian Reader, ed. Amitai Etzioni, ix-xxiv. New York: Rowman
& Littlefield Publishers.
Feinberg, Joel. 1988. “Liberalism, Community, and Tradition.” Tikkun, 3(3): 38-41, 116-120.
Freeman, Michael. 1998. “Universalism, Communitarianism and Human Rights: A Reply to
Chris Brown.” The International Journal of Human Rights, 2(1): 79-92.
________. 2012. Human Rights: An interdisciplinary approach. 2nd ed. Malden: Polity Press.
Friedman, Jeffrey. 1994. “The Politics of Communitarianism.” Critical Review, 8(2): 297-340.
Gutmann, Amy. 1985. “Communitarian Critics of Liberalism.” Philosophy & Public Affairs,
14(3): 308-322.
Kant, Immanuel. 1785/1988. Fundamental Principles of The Metaphysic of Morals. Tr. T.K.
Abbott. New York: Prometheus Books.
Kautz, Steven. 1995. Liberalism and Community. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Kymlicka, Will. 1988. “Liberalism and Communitarianism.” Canadian Journal of Philosophy,
18(2): 181-203.
________. 1989a. Liberalism, Community and Culture. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
________. 1989b. “Liberal Individualism and Liberal Neutrality.” Ethics, 99(4): 883-905.
________. 2002. Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
Larmore, Charles. 1990. “Political Liberalism.” Political Theory, 18(3): 339-360.
MacIntyre, Alasdair. 1981/2007. After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory. 3rd ed. Indiana:
University of Notre Dame Press.
Miller, David. 1992. “Deliberative Democracy and Social Choice.” Political Studies, XL,
Special Issue: 54-67.
________. 2003. Political Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Mulgan, R.G. 1977. Aristotle’s Political Theory: An Introduction for Students of Political
Theory. Oxford: Clarendon.
Mulhall, Stephen, and Adam Swift. 1993. “Liberalisms and Communitarianisms: whose
Misconception? A Reply to S.Caney, ‘Liberalism and Communitarianism: A Misconceived
Debate’.” Political Studies, XLI: 650-656.
________. 1996. Liberals and Communitarians. 2nd ed. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
Nozick, Robert. 1974. Anarchy, State, and Utopia. New York: Basic Books.
Orwin, Clifford. 1998. “The Encumbered American Self.” In Debating Democracy’s Discontent:
Essays on American Politics, Law, and Public Philosophy, eds. Anita L. Allen and
Milton C. Regan Jr., 86-91. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Phillips, Derek. L. 1993. Looking Backward: A Critical Appraisal of Communitarian Thought.
Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Rawls, John. 1971. A Theory of Justice. Original Edition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
________. 1980. “Kantian Constructivism in Moral Theory.” Journal of Philosophy, 77: 515-572.
________. 1993. Political Liberalism. Expanded Edition. New York: Columbia University Press.
________. 1999. The Law of Peoples: With “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited.” Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press.
Sandel, Michael J. 1982. Liberalism and the Limits of Justice. Cambridge: Cambridge University
________. 1984a. “The Procedural Republic and the Unencumbered Self.” Political Theory,
12(1): 81-96.
________. 1984b. “Introduction.” In Liberalism and Its Critics, ed. Michael J. Sandel, 1-11.
New York: New York University Press.
________. 1989. “Religious Liberty – Freedom of Conscience or Freedom of Choice?” Utah
Law Review, Vol. 3: 597-615.
________. 1994. “Political Liberalism.” Harvard Law Review, Vol. 107: 1765-1794.
________. 1996. Democracy’s Discontent: America in Search of a Public Philosophy. Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press.
________. 1998a. “Reply to Critics.” In Debating Democracy’s Discontent: Essays on American
Politics, Law, and Public Philosophy, eds. Anita L. Allen and Milton C. Regan Jr.,
319-335. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
________. 1988b. Liberalism and the Limits of Justice. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
________. 2000. What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets.” The Tanner Lectures
on Human Values, Vol. 21: 87-122.
________. 2003. “What Money Shouldn’t Buy.” The Hedgehog Review, 5(2): 77-97.
________. 2004a. “Embryo Ethics: The Moral Logic of Stem-Cell Research.” The New England
Journal of MeDicine, 351(3): 207-209.
________. 2004b. “Ethics of Embryonic: Dr. Sandel Replies.” The New England Journal of
MeDicine, 351(16): 1689-1690.
________. 2005a. “The Ethical Implications of Human Cloning.” Perspectives in Biology and
Medicine, 48(2): 241-247.
________. 2005b. Public Philosophy: Essays on Morality in Politics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press.
________. 2007. The Case Against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering.
Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
________. 2009. Justice: What’s The Right Thing To Do? London: Penguin.
________. 2012. What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets. London: Penguin.
________. 2013. “Market Reasoning as Moral Reasoning: Why Economists Should Re-engage
with Political Philosophy.” Journal of Economic Perspectives, 27(4): 121-140.
________. 2014. “The Moral Economy of Speculation: Gambling, Finance, and the Common
Good.” The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Vol. 33: 333-359.
________. 2018. “Learning from Chinese Philosophy.” In Encountering China: Michael
Sandel and Chinese Philosophy, eds. Michael J. Sandel & Paul J. D’ambrosio, 245-279.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Selznick, Philip. 1987. “The Idea of A Communitarian Morality.” California Law Review,
75(1): 445-463.
Swift, Adam. 2014. Political Philosophy: A Beginners’ Guide For Students and Politicians.
3rd ed. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Tam, Henry. 1998. Communitarianism: A New Agenda For Politics and Citizenship. London:
Macmillan Press.
Taylor, Charles. 1989. Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity. Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press.
Thigpen, Robert B., and Lyle A. Downing. 1987. “Liberalism and the Communitarian Critique.”
American Journal of Political Science, 31(3): 637-655.
________. 1994. “Community in the Minimal State.” Critical Review, 8(2): 285-296.
Waldron, Jeremy. 1988. “When Justice Replaces Affection: The Need for Rights.” Harvard
Journal of Law & Public Policy, 11(3): 625-647.
Wallach, John R. 1987. “Liberals, Communitarians, and the Tasks of Political Theory.”
Political Theory, 15(4): 581–611.
Walzer, Michael. 1983. Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality. Oxford: