Boston Book Festival 2020 Boston Book Festival 2020

Opening Keynote

- EDT
Crowdcast 26
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Michael J. Sandel
The Tyranny of Merit

Michael Sandel teaches political philosophy at Harvard University. He has been described as “the most relevant living philosopher,” a “rock-star moralist” (Newsweek), and “the most famous teacher of philosophy in the world” (New Republic). His books What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets and Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? were international best sellers and have been translated into 27 languages. Sandel’s legendary course “Justice” was the first Harvard course to be made freely available online and has been viewed by tens of millions. His BBC series The Global Philosopher explores the ethical issues lying behind the headlines with participants from around the world. Sandel’s new book is The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good? It offers a novel diagnosis of our polarized politics and how to heal it. Preet Bharara, CNN commentator and former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, calls The Tyranny of Merit “accessible and profound, a must-read for anyone who still cares about the common good…No good faith reader will come away from this book unchanged.” Reviewing the book in the New York Times, Arlie Hochschild writes: "Now’s a good time for both sides to sit down for a very serious talk, with The Tyranny of Merit required reading for all."

Buy The Tyranny of Merit

Robin Young is a television and radio personality who currently co-hosts NPR and WBUR’s news magazine program Here & Now. Young won a Peabody Award for documentary filmmaking and has won several Emmys for her work in television as well as cable’s Ace award, the Religious Public Relations Council’s Wilbur Award, the National Conference of Christians and Jews Gold Award and the radio’s regional Edward R. Murrow Award. Her career has taken her through broadcasting, serving as a second director on Boston Bruins and Red Sox telecasts, and being one of the first hosts on the groundbreaking television show Evening Magazine.


In The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good? political philosopher and academic rockstar Michael J. Sandel explains how belief in a meritocratic ideal has had a corrosive effect on the dignity of work and has left many in our society feeling humiliated and resentful. America’s bedrock belief that hard work and talent allows people to rise is belied by the facts: it is easier to rise from poverty in Canada, Germany, Denmark, and other European countries than in the United States. The winners in our society hold the smug conviction that they deserve success and that the losers, too, deserve their fate. This attitude has led us in a straight line to the election of Donald Trump. Sandel posits that there should be an equality of condition in America, one that allows those without great power or prestige to also live with dignity and the esteem of others. This is a message we all need to hear. Join Michael Sandel in conversation with the Emmy and Peabody Award–winning host of WBUR’s Here & Now, Robin Young. 90.9 WBUR is the media sponsor of this session.