Today’s conundrum: What reader to use for my social justice class in the fall?

I’ve got two, very nice readers in my possession. One is:

What is Justice: Classic and Contemporary Readings, Edited by Robert C. Solomon and Mark Murphy. I have the second edition, and it’s getting rather dated. A new edition is badly badly needed here, and I don’t have high hopes given that the last update came in 1999.

However, I do like the diversity of readings here, and their selections from the ancients really knocks my socks off. We cover liberation theology in the latter part of the class, and the Old Testament selections in this reader make for a nice bookend. Also, there is a little piece from Mencius. And the Qua’ran.

On the negative side, it also has a section on criminal justice that just isn’t going to be terribly relevant to a class on social justice. And I could find those selections from the ancients really easily in other sources.

What Is Justice Solomon Robert C 9780195128109

The other contender is Michael Sandel’s Justice: A Reader. It’s newer, and I’m assuming it came out of his very famous class on justice at Harvard. It’s a fine selection, but I am not crazy about the way he’s clustered the readings, and while I teach in a policy school, his selected cases strike me as somewhat less interesting than other social conflicts we might pick. For me, I’ve read enough about affirmative action to tear out my hair with both hands. I know it’s important, but I’ve just had enough. I can’t teach very well when I’m bored.

There is ONE selection from a woman. One. And there is no Marx or Hegel or even Hume.

Nonetheless, the selections from Sandel’s favorites are magisterial. It takes some work to extract the pith from Aristotle or Kant, and Sandel just nails it.


The difference: Sandel’s has fewer, longer selections from the western tradition; Solomon and Murphy have more, less in-depth selections from a more diverse array.