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OU on the BBC: Justice: Fairness And The Big Society

Updated Thursday 7th April 2011

 Michael Sandel takes on the idea of fairness, and asks how it might apply to David Cameron's Big Society.

Michael Sandel Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC

What is the "Big Society"? What is fairness? And how do the two ideas relate to each other?

Renowned Harvard professor of government Michael Sandel casts an outsider’s eye on contemporary Britain and explores the big philosophical themes behind these present-day dilemmas in a special televised debate to launch BBC Four’s Year of Justice.

For the last year Prime Minister David Cameron has been trying to enthuse Britain with his concept of the Big Society, and there are signs that it is beginning to generate cross-party traction. Not just from Nick Clegg and other Liberal Democrats in Cameron's government - Labour figures Jon Cruddas and Peter Mandelson have made positive remarks about the concept.

Not everyone is convinced however – some sceptics claim that the Big Society is just a smokescreen for cuts to local government and the public sector.

Meanwhile another concept dominating the political debate in the current climate is fairness. With proposals on the table for some of the biggest government cuts in post-war history, the question of how these should be implemented most fairly has taken centre stage.

Michael Sandel will consider some of the questions thrown up by the government's programme. Is it fair that students should pay higher fees? Is it fair to cap housing benefit? And, if fairness is about giving people what they deserve, has the treatment of bankers has been fair in light of their role in the current financial crisis?

This programme can be seen on BBC Four at 9pm, Sunday, Janaury 23rd 2011; it's repeated at 10.45 on Thursday April 7th 2011.

Find out more

What makes me ‘Me’? Does God exist? Why should I act morally? Can I trust science? Should I obey laws I disagree with? If you want to get to grips with some of the biggest questions of them all, start by considering The Open University course Exploring Philosophy.

 

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