Cass SunsteinChoosing Not to Choose: Understanding the Value of Choice

Oxford University Press, 2015

by Robert Talisse on September 1, 2015

Cass Sunstein

View on Amazon

The political tradition of liberalism tends to associate political liberty with the individual's freedom of choice. The thought is that political freedom is intrinsically tied to the individual's ability to select one's own path in life – to choose one's occupation, one's values, one's hobbies, one's possessions, and so on – without the intrusion or supervision of others. John Stuart Mill, who held a version of this view, argued that it is in choosing for ourselves that we develop not only self-knowledge, but autonomy and personality. Yet we now know that the image of the individual chooser that Mill's view seems to presuppose is not quite accurate. It is not only the case that environmental factors of various kinds exert a great but often invisible influence over our choices; we must also contend with the limits of our cognitive resources. Sometimes, having to choose can be a burden, a hazard, and even an obstacle to liberty.

In Choosing Not to Choose: Understanding the Value of Choice (Oxford University Press, 2015), Cass Sunstein examines the varied phenomena of choice-making. Bringing a range of finding from behavioral sciences, Sunstein makes the case that sometimes avoiding or delegating choice is an exercise of individual freedom.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Carolyn Pedwell Affective Relations: The Transnational Politics of Empathy

August 27, 2015

What are the multiple meanings, ambivalences, possible risks, and potentials for transformation that arise from interrogating empathy on a transnational scale? Carolyn Pedwell (University of Kent) thinks through these complex questions in her new book, Affective Relations: The Transnational Politics of Empathy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). The book ambitiously traverses multiple disciplinary and intellectual boundaries, drawing together […]

Read the full article →

Paul A. ChristensenJapan, Alcoholism, and Masculinity: Suffering Sobriety in Tokyo

August 19, 2015

Paul A. Christensen's new book is a thoughtful ethnography of drinking, drunkenness, and male sociability in modern urban Japan. Focusing on two major alcohol sobriety support groups in Japan, Alcoholics Anonymous and Danshukai, Japan, Alcoholism, and Masculinity: Suffering Sobriety in Tokyo (Lexington Books, 2014) explores the ways that admitting to and living with alcoholism in Japan challenges […]

Read the full article →

Paul VerhaegheWhat About Me?: The Struggle for Identity in a Market-Based Society

August 18, 2015

Feeling exhausted, hopeless, and anxious? You might be suffering from symptoms of neoliberalism, according to Paul Verhaeghe. In What About Me?: The Struggle for Identity in a Market-Based Society (Scribe Publications, 2014), he takes on "Enron society," demonstrating how the core insights and principles of psychoanalysis can be brought to bear on social relations, history, and ideology. […]

Read the full article →

Gyanendra PandeyA History of Prejudice: Race, Caste, and Difference in India and the United States

August 14, 2015

A History of Prejudice: Race, Caste, and Difference in India and the United States (Cambridge University Press, 2013) is the latest book by Gyanendra Pandey. The book analyses prejudice and democracy through a comparison of African Americans and Indian Dalits. Pandey's method of exploring these disparate populations and enormously complex themes, is to focus on […]

Read the full article →

Janet VertesiSeeing like a Rover: How Robots, Teams, and Images Craft Knowledge of Mars

August 10, 2015

Janet Vertesi's fascinating new book is an ethnography of the Mars Rover mission that takes readers into the practices involved in working with the two robotic explorers Spirit and Opportunity. Based on two years of immersive ethnography from 2006-2008, Seeing like a Rover: How Robots, Teams, and Images Craft Knowledge of Mars (University of Chicago Press, […]

Read the full article →

Craig MartinCapitalizing Religion: Ideology and the Opiate of the Bourgeoisie

August 4, 2015

Whether you need help being more focused at work, are having a spiritual crisis, or want to understand how you can change your inner self for the better, the popular self-help and spiritual well-being market has got you covered. In Capitalizing Religion: Ideology and the Opiate of the Bourgeoisie (Bloomsbury, 2014), Craig Martin, Associate Professor […]

Read the full article →

Nancy FraserTransnationalizing the Public Sphere (Polity, 2014)

July 8, 2015

How is "the public sphere" best conceptualized on a transnational scale? Nancy Fraser (The New School for Social Research) explores this pressing question in her book Transnationalizing the Public Sphere (Polity, 2014). Opening with Fraser's foundational essay, "Transnationalizing the Public Sphere: On the Legitimacy and Efficacy of Public Opinion in a Post-Westphalian World," the book […]

Read the full article →

Kocku von StuckradThe Scientification of Religion: An Historical Study of Discursive Change, 1800-2000

July 6, 2015

Science and religion are often paired as diametric opposites. However, the boundaries of these two fields were not always as clear as they seem to be today. In The Scientification of Religion: An Historical Study of Discursive Change, 1800-2000 (De Gruyter, 2014), Kocku von Stuckrad, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Groningen, demonstrates how […]

Read the full article →

Christian FuchsCulture and Economy in the Age of Social Media

June 28, 2015

Social media is now a pervasive element of many people's lives. in order to best understand this phenomenon we need a comprehensive theory of the political economy of social media. In Culture and Economy in the Age of Social Media (Routledge, 2015), Christian Fuchs, a professor of social media at the University of Westminster, brings together a […]

Read the full article →