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What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets Paperback – 2 May 2013

4.3 out of 5 stars 166 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (2 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241954487
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241954485
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (166 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 14,994 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


One of the most popular teachers in the world (Observer)

Sandel is touching something deep in both Boston and Beijing (Thomas Friedman New York Times)

The most influential foreign figure of the year (China's Newsweek)

Few philosophers are compared to rock stars or TV celebrities, but that's the kind of popularity Michael Sandel enjoys in Japan (Japan Times)

One of the world's most interesting political philosophers (Guardian)

What Money Can't Buy selected by the Guardian as a literary highlight for 2012 (Guardian)

America's best-known contemporary political philosopher ... the most famous professor in the world right now... the man is an academic rock star [but] instead of making it all serious and formidable, Sandel makes it light and easy to grasp (Mitu Jayashankar Forbes India)

An exquisitely reasoned, skillfully written treatise on big issues of everyday life (Kirkus Reviews)

Sandel is probably the world's most relevant living philosopher (Michael Fitzgerald Newsweek)

Mr Sandel is pointing out [a] quite profound change in society (Jonathan V Last Wall Street Journal)

Provocative and intellectually suggestive ... amply researched and presented with exemplary clarity, [it] is weighty indeed - little less than a wake-up call to recognise our desperate need to rediscover some intelligible way of talking about humanity (Rowan Williams Prospect)

Brilliant, easily readable, beautifully delivered and often funny ... an indispensable book (David Aaronovitch Times)

Entertaining and provocative (Diane Coyle Independent)

Poring through Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel's new book ... I found myself over and over again turning pages and saying, "I had no idea." I had no idea that in the year 2000 ... "a Russian rocket emblazoned with a giant Pizza Hut logo carried advertising into outer space," or that in 2001, the British novelist Fay Weldon wrote a book commissioned by the jewelry company Bulgari ... I knew that stadiums are now named for corporations, but had no idea that now "even sliding into home is a corporate-sponsored event" ... I had no idea that in 2001 an elementary school in New Jersey became America's first public school "to sell naming rights to a corporate sponsor" (Thomas Friedman New York Times)

A vivid illustration ... Let's hope that What Money Can't Buy, by being so patient and so accumulative in its argument and its examples, marks a permanent shift in these debates (John Lanchester Guardian)

In a culture mesmerised by the market, Sandel's is the indispensable voice of reason ... if we ... bring basic values into political life in the way that Sandel suggests, at least we won't be stuck with the dreary market orthodoxies that he has so elegantly demolished (John Gray New Statesman)

What Money Can't Buy is replete with examples of what money can, in fact, buy ... Sandel has a genius for showing why such changes are deeply important (Martin Sandbu Financial Times)

Michael Sandel ... is currently the most effective communicator of ideas in English (Guardian)

Sandel, the most famous teacher of philosophy in the world, has shown that it is possible to take philosophy into the public square without insulting the public's intelligence (Michael Ignatieff New Republic)

A book that can persuade people that the rules of the economy don't just reflect our values, they help to determine them (Ed Miliband New Statesman)

Fascinating exploration of the alarming encroachment of market philosophy on so many aspects of our lives (Alexander McCall Smith The Herald)

About the Author

Michael J. Sandel is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government at Harvard University. His legendary 'Justice' course is the first Harvard course made freely available online (www.JusticeHarvard.org) and on television. Hiss work has been translated into 15 languages and been the subject of television series in the U.K., the U.S., Japan, South Korea, Sweden, and the Middle East. He has delivered the Tanner Lectures at Oxford and been a visiting professor at the Sorbonne, Paris. In 2010, China Newsweek named him the "most influential foreign figure of the year" in China. Sandel was the 2009 BBC Reith Lecturer, and his most recent book Justice is an international bestseller.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S. J. Williams TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 27 April 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I read this with great enthusiasm after seeing Sandel on tv last year and listening to him on the radio recently exploring some contemporary issues with audiences: what I admired was his ability to take the audience through a series of steps to elucidate central moral concerns. Here he takes a steady look at the commodification of much in western culture and subjects it to a scrupulous moral analysis, in many respects very much a print version of his broadcast work. The reviewer who hints at disappointment that there is nothing new here has a valid point: I doubt there really is in terms of conclusions. But what I really admire and am engaged by with Sandel's method is that it is not polemic but takes the reader through the logical processes by which one can arrive at judgements.

Most of us will probably 'know what we think' about many of the topics covered here - from bribes/incentives to populations to live healthily, to the access of advertisers to educational spaces, and many more and many more pressing and central topics besides. But what Sandel does is unravel the threads of logic and underpinning value judgements that many of us leapfrog over in our rush to judgement. At the very least we know better why certain arguments are more valid than others and occasionally have our assumptions challenged, or at least brought out into the open.

Perhaps best of all, the book is another demonstration that philosophy is not some abstruse academic pastime but a very relevant everyday process: if all the book does is remind us that we need to have a thought out underpinning to our expressed attitudes, then that is a worthy goal in itself.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In this book Michael Sandel explores the belief that money can buy everything. He asks us to confront our acceptance, and also our revulsion, at the control that money and business interests have on our way of life.

Sandel takes the reader through a brief history of the insurance business, which began as a system to protect our expensive goods, allowing us to replace our dwelling, should the house burn down; or gain compensation should our ship sink, rather than come in. If you, like me, are ignorant enough to think that this is where the business is today, you are in for a rude surprise: old people are being paid to take out insurance policies, which are taken over by companies who pay the premiums, in the hope that the insured person dies quickly, giving them a decent profit. The banking system has even bought in to this concept and, along with sub prime mortgages, one can buy shares in the death industry.

Sandel also investigates the changing policies of the advertising industry. A few years ago advertisements would appear on television, in the press and occasional street posters. Nowadays, even in conservative Britain, adverts pop up in all sorts unlikely places and this book shows where we are likely to be in the future.

My football team already plays at the King Power Stadium, which had been known as the Walkers Stadium, until more money was offered for the naming rights. Apparently, a police car, in the metropolis, apprehends miscreants under the sponsorship of Harrods and many town centres have an over-sized television in their square, ostensibly to show major events but in reality, to put a string of banal advertisements in front of the general public.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I didn't expect a book on economics to grab my interest. However, this little gem by Michael Sandel hooked me from the beginning. MS writes knowledgeably about the effect of the market on the everyday morals that we all take for granted - well, I certainly did, until I read this book! Informative and quietly witty, the author addresses such basic yet important questions as: Should we let company sponsorship drive the true fan away from the ball park? Would you let your house, car or even forehead be festooned (or in the latter case, tattooed) with advertising? Or: Does paying students to do their schoolwork result in better grades? Sandel argues his case with aplomb, seeing both sides of the morals v. markets issue whilst gently persuading us it's not a good thing. he also casually threw in a few facts that really made my jaw drop. For example, in certain prisons in the USA, it's possible for the more genteel (aka: wealthy) prisoner to be upgraded to a better cell. If this particular example doesn't illustrate the rapidly widening gulf between America's rich and poor, nothing does! If I have one criticism, it is that the book is mostly US centric, but it's merely a small quibble. I would also have liked to have seen more questions asked of the way the large pharmaceutical companies run health care on a worldwide basis, but maybe this could be the basis of another book? Anyway, if youhave an interest in economics or like books that make you think, read this. Recommended!
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Format: Hardcover
If I'm right in saying that true erudition lies in being able to make the complex both simple and thought-provoking, then Michael Sandel is on a short shortlist for the wisest man alive today.

The creep of market values to overlay or replace other ethical values is one of the most harmful aspects of the Western world today. Why are we in thrall to markets? Why are `profits', `efficiency' and `incentives' such central themes across so many organisations and so much social activity? And what do we lose as a result?

If you have read `Freakonomics' or books like it, then consider this your antidote. Please read it, then give it to a friend to read. We might just change the world. It's that good.
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