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Publisher's Summary

The unabridged, downloadable audiobook edition of Michael J. Sandel's What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets, read by the author himself. Should we pay children to read books or to get good grades? Is it ethical to pay people to test risky new drugs or to donate their organs? What about hiring mercenaries to fight our wars, outsourcing inmates to for-profit prisons, auctioning admission to elite universities, or selling citizenship to immigrants willing to pay? Isn't there something wrong with a world in which everything is for sale? In recent decades, market values have crowded out nonmarket norms in almost every aspect of life - medicine, education, government, law, art, sports, even family life and personal relations.

Without quite realizing it, Sandel argues, we have drifted from having a market economy to being a market society. In What Money Can't Buy, Sandel examines one of the biggest ethical questions of our time and provokes a debate that's been missing in our market-driven age: What is the proper role of markets in a democratic society, and how can we protect the moral and civic goods that markets do not honour and money cannot buy?

©2012 Michael Sandel (P)2012 Penguin Books Ltd

Critic Reviews

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

What listeners say about What Money Can't Buy

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Excellent all-round

This was a fantastic book, very thought provoking, and the narrator (the author himself) delivered the material in a natural manner that was easy to listen to, and indeed enjoy. The connection between the narrator and his material is obvious and enriches the recitation. In terms of the content, I am in broad agreement with the thesis that marketisation changes the object so marketised and that this change needs to me properly considered before privatisation and commodification of a thing is undertaken. Even if you disagree, listening to this audiobook will equip you with a good understanding of that position. The examples are interesting (and sometimes shocking), and by the end you grasp the author’s point perfectly clearly.

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A wonderful course in applied Virtue Ethics

This is a great book. Sandel gives templates to rebutt or at least cause serious consideration of the claims of Utilitarians who claim we should accept markets as miraculous engines of decision making. He is sharp and entertaining. Well worth the effort. Check out Alisdair McIntyre's virtue ethics work for an intro into these ideas.

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  • Dan
  • 24-07-2016

Very important book in our age of market dominance

I very convincing argument is put forward by Sandel that markets ultimately change the nature of the goods exchanged thereby changing meaning and actually degrading some long held norms like civic virtues. This is of great concern as Sandel maps the increasing pervasiveness of market thinking and market fundamentalism in society. What makes the situation worse is that new market intiaitves are usually debated on the grounds of fairness and whether free choice will really be free. Sandel warns that this is not enough and that we must not shy away from actually assessing the moral worthiness of the new intiaitve and it's only after deliberating over these matters that we can determine whether a market should exist or whether something may be corrupted as a result and therefore left to be regulated by non market norms. As Sandel rightly observes "shrinking from these questions does not leave them undecided. it simply means that markets will decide them for us....The era of market triumphalism has coincided with a time when public discourse has been largely empty or moral and spiritual substance. Our only hope of keeping markets in their place is to deliberate openly and publicly about the meaning of the goods and social practises we prize."

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-03-2020

A fascinating critique of 'market thriumphalism'

Terrific book, only downsides: slight repetition, some points could have been made with less examples.

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  • Sheena
  • 19-06-2014

Compassionate economic philosophy

What did you like most about What Money Can't Buy?

Sandel is an antidote to the often dubious and heartless reasoning of mainstream economics. He uses clear language and examples from popular culture to illustrate his points.

Have you listened to any of Michael J Sandel’s other performances? How does this one compare?

Before buying this book, I had listened to Sandel's series on BBC Radio 4, 'The Public Philosopher', and his Reith Lectures. This book is in much the same vein; if you liked the Radio 4 lectures, I'd recommend this book, and vice versa.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Although this book discusses developments in our society that are quite depressing, I found it quite uplifting. It is a relief to hear someone who places compassion at the centre of his economic philosophy. Sandel always reminds me that among all the mercenaries of the world, there are a lot of genuinely decent human beings. We're not completely doomed.

Any additional comments?

One small thing: At about 3hrs 50mins, Sandel refers to a speech by 'Robertson', as if he has already discussed it. I thought I had missed something, but after checking back couldn't find any mention of it. Later in the book, Sandel does indeed discuss Dennis Robertson's speech. I think that sections of the book were moved around at the editing stage, and this non-sequitur was overlooked. If you have bought this book and have noticed this, I found this summary of the speech online:

Robertson (1954) claimed that by promoting policies that rely, whenever possible, on self-interest rather than altruism or moral considerations, the economist saves society from squandering its scarce supply of virtue. “If we economists do [our] business well,” Robertson (p. 154) concluded, “we can, I believe, contribute mightily to the economizing . . . of that scarce resource Love,” the “most precious thing in the world."

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  • Chris
  • 30-09-2013

Brilliant

Would you listen to What Money Can't Buy again? Why?

I've listened to this audio book a couple of times because there are so many ideas contained within it that one listen doesn't do it justice. It was good to listen and read the book at the same time. It's a real consciousness raiser.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 15-10-2019

Thought provoking!!

Really, really interesting, and excellently narrated by the author. Poses questions that make you consider the ethical values of commercialism: just because you can (afford to), should you?

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  • Rodney Jones
  • 08-11-2015

FIRST CLASS IN ALL RESPECTS!

This should be a 'must read' for everyone who is concerned for ethics in a world that are children are going to inherit.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-08-2015

Superb analysis

For the first time someone has been able to crystallise and explain the misgivings I have felt about the commodification of everything that has occurred since the 1980s.

Michael Sandel sets out all the objections to 'market worship' in terms of the unfairness and corruption inherent in the economic view of every area of life, using a range of easy to understand examples from selling blood to viatical insurance.

I would recommend this book to everyone who feels uneasy at the idea of people having advertising slogans tattooed on their bodies, or who feel horrified at the idea of bidding to adopt a baby.

Most of all I would recommend it to anyone who really wants to understand the real meaning of "the price of everything and the value of nothing".

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  • eamonn
  • 06-04-2013

Astounded

In one word that explains how you feel after listening to this book. Clear and articulate with a flow that is almost fiction-like ... This book has both haunted and delighted me for months ... I don't honestly know where to turn but if the trends beautifully explained in this book continue unabated and unchanged then the future ahead will be a dystopian nightmare from which there is no escape!!

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