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 }

Thomas HolyokeThe Ethical Lobbyist: Reforming Washington’s Influence Industry

August 31, 2015

Thomas Holyoke is the author of The Ethical Lobbyist: Reforming Washington's Influence Industry (Georgetown UP, 2015). Holyoke is associate professor of political science at California State University, Fresno. Can one of the most reviled professions in the country be expected to act ethically? If so, what would an ethical lobbyist look like? The answer is […]

Read the full article →

William DaviesThe Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Well-Being

August 18, 2015

Are you happy? In his new book The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Well-Being (Verso, 2015), William Davies, a senior lecturer at Goldsmiths' College, University of London, critically investigates this question. The book offers skepticism towards the demand that economy and society be happy, scepticism founded in an interrogation of the practices of […]

Read the full article →

Alexandra Minna SternTelling Genes: The Story of Genetic Counseling in America

August 10, 2015

Due in part to lobbying efforts on behalf of the human genome project, human genes tend to be thought of in light of the present–genetic components of human disease and differential risks associated with genetic individuals–before the future, what gets passed on to later generations. However, public understanding of genetics did not merely radiate from […]

Read the full article →

MK Czerwiec, Ian Williams, Susan Merrill Squier, Michael J. Green, Kimberly R. Myers, and Scott T. SmithGraphic Medicine Manifesto

July 24, 2015

Physician/author Ian Williams coined the term "graphic medicine" to "denote the role that comics can play in the study and delivery of healthcare." The robust emerging graphic medicine community can be witnessed in its website and annual conference, as well as in the profusion of fascinating graphic medicine texts created from a range of perspectives, […]

Read the full article →

William Elliott III and Melinda LewisReal College Debt Crisis: How Student Borrowing Threatens Financial Well-Being and Erodes the American Dream

July 20, 2015

Dr. William Elliott III, associate professor in the School of Social Welfare at the University of Kansas, and Melinda Lewis, associate professor of practice in the School of Social Welfare at the University of Kansas, explore the landscape of the US higher education student loan situation in The Real College Debt Crisis: How Student Borrowing […]

Read the full article →

Winnifred F. SullivanA Ministry of Presence: Chaplaincy, Spiritual Care and the Law

July 12, 2015

As patterns of religiosity have changed in the United States, chaplains have come to occupy an increasingly important place in the nation's public institutions, especially its prisons, hospitals and military. In her newest book, A Ministry of Presence: Chaplaincy, Spiritual Care and the Law (University of Chicago Press, 2014), Winnifred F. Sullivan offers a comprehensive […]

Read the full article →

Sarah S. BushThe Taming of Democracy Assistance: Why Democracy Promotion Does Not Confront Dictators

July 12, 2015

Sarah S. Bush is the author of The Taming of Democracy Assistance: Why Democracy Promotion Does Not Confront Dictators (Cambridge University Press, 2015). Dunn is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Temple University. Bush's book examines the assortment of strategies countries use to promote democracy abroad. She tracks a change in […]

Read the full article →

Suzanna Reiss We Sell Drugs: The Alchemy of US Empire

July 9, 2015

[Cross-posted with permission from Who Makes Cents: A History of Capitalism Podcast] Today's guest discusses the history of the coca leaf and the U.S. drug control regime. Amongst other topics, we discuss the importance of coca to both Coca-Cola and Merck and the pharmaceutical industry. For Suzanna Reiss, this provides a way to interpret the […]

Read the full article →

Sophia Z. LeeThe Workplace Constitution from the New Deal to the New Right

June 3, 2015

Americans believe they have a number of protections on the job, which are common in other democracies (free speech and privacy, defense against capricious firing, etc.). They are wrong. And in her fascinating new book The Workplace Constitution from the New Deal to the New Right (Cambridge University Press, 2014), the legal historian Sophia Z. Lee wants to […]

Read the full article →