Public Service and the Future of Democracy with Professor Michael J Sandel

Issued: Fri, 18 Sep 2015 15:24:00 BST

Sandel lecture

On Saturday 15 August the John Smith Centre and Carnegie UK Trust were joined by the internationally renowned Harvard Professor Michael J. Sandel for a special keynote lecture on ‘Public Service and the Future of Democracy’. The event was held as part of the Scottish Parliament Festival of Politics, a three day series of debate, film, music and exhibitions, all within the uniquely vibrant and stimulating setting of Holyrood.

Professor Sandel is one of the world’s leading political philosophers, hailed as a legend in the lecture hall; his work has drawn plaudits across the globe. His internationally renowned Harvard course Justice, is one of the most popular in Harvard’s history and regularly attracts thousands of students eager to discuss the big questions of modern political life: bioethics, torture, rights versus responsibilities, the value we put on things. His on-going series The Public Philosopher can be heard on BBC Radio 4, which also broadcast his Reith Lectures in 2009.

The interactive lecture took place in the chamber of the Scottish Parliament and was followed by a lively question and answer session chaired by the Right Honourable Tricia Markwick MSP, the Presiding Officer of the Parliament.  Sandel is an extraordinary orator whose inclusive and interactive style brought the chamber alive with debate and discussion; inviting the audience to tackle questions including ‘can cash incentives encourage greater voter participation?’ and ‘could global tradeable refugee quotas address the challenges of immigration?’

We were delighted that Professor Sandel could join us for this opportunity to stimulate a thought-provoking debate and raise important questions around the role and perception of public service today. 

Michael Sandel’s book ‘Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?’, relates the big questions of political philosophy to the most vexing issues of our time: bank bailouts, immigration, the role of markets, same sex marriage and the ethical questions we confront.  The Justice at Harvard course has been serialised into a 12 episode TV series and are available to watch on the Justice with Michael Sandel website.

This lecture took place as part of the Festival of Politics, which ran from 14 - 16 August and adopted an international theme, designed to inspire people to see the world differently. The Festival of Politics is an annual event, which began in 2005, and has attracted major participants from the worlds of politics, media and arts.