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  • Published: 16 July 2024
  • ISBN: 9780141991948
  • Imprint: Penguin Press
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 432
  • RRP: $30.00

Free and Equal

What Would a Fair Society Look Like?

An uplifting vision of a new, egalitarian liberalism, and a bold practical programme for how we can reinvigorate democracy and transform capitalism

Despite the enormous problems we face and widespread dissatisfaction with the status quo, it's surprisingly hard to find a coherent vision of what a better, fairer society would look like.

Free and Equal provides that vision. In this hugely ambitious and exhilarating debut, philosopher and economist Daniel Chandler argues that the ideas we need are hiding in plain sight, in the work of the twentieth century's greatest political philosopher, John Rawls. Although they have revolutionised philosophy, his ideas have had little impact on politics - until now. Taking Rawls's humane and egalitarian liberalism as his starting point, Chandler builds a careful and ultimately irresistible case for a progressive agenda that would fundamentally reshape our political and economic institutions.

This is a book brimming with hope and possibility - a much-needed alternative to the cynicism that pervades our politics, setting out a 'realistic utopia' that can galvanise people from all walks of life. Free and Equal has the potential not only to transform contemporary debate, but to offer a touchstone for a modern, egalitarian liberalism for many years to come, cementing Rawls's place in political discourse, and firmly establishing Chandler as a vital new voice for our time.

  • Published: 16 July 2024
  • ISBN: 9780141991948
  • Imprint: Penguin Press
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 432
  • RRP: $30.00

Praise for Free and Equal

A beautifully written and compelling argument that Rawlsian political philosophy can heal our broken societies and make us, indeed, free and equal

Professor Sir Angus Deaton, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics and author of Deaths of Despair

This is superb work, in both explaining Rawls for general readers and in applying Rawlsian principles to contemporary problems of social and political justice ... It is impressive - clear, concise, thorough, and accessible

Professor Samuel Freeman, author of Rawls and editor of The Cambridge Companion to Rawls

This is essential reading for anyone interested in the future of the left, and indeed the future of liberal democracy

Jon Cruddas MP

This is a fantastic book. More than ever, we need philosophers to participate in the public debate about inequality and sustainability. In Free and Equal Daniel Chandler provides us with the moral basis for an ambitious egalitarian agenda, and a roadmap for putting this into practice. It is a must-read!

Thomas Piketty

A tremendous book, timely, wise, authoritative and clear. The world will fall on it like tired labourers falling on a tray of donuts

Stephen Fry

Invaluable... Chandler takes a set of universal principles around fairness, based on the philosophy of John Rawls, and applies them to the real world of liberal democracy

Sir Vince Cable, former leader of the Liberal Democrats

In this very timely and refreshing book, Daniel Chandler argues that rather than abandon liberalism we must reimagine it. Free and Equal asks big questions about how human society should be organised, and offers answers all of us should take seriously, whatever our politics

Jesse Norman MP

A robust and inspiring case for the philosophy of John Rawls, dragging his theory of justice down from Harvard's ivory towers and into the street with the people. In clear and impassioned style [Chandler] returns Rawls to the center of the conversation, where he belongs, re-establishing his work as a potential agent of radical - and practicable - change... intellectually rigorous and full of hope

Zadie Smith

Daniel Chandler is the most exciting new thinker on the scene, making the most complex of ideas digestible even for idiots like me. Free and Equal provides a refreshingly hopeful tonic for our cynical times. I gulped it down

Hadley Freeman

Chandler has an excellent background on the philosophical issues that are central to practical policy making, and given the lucidity and reach of what he writes, this book will meet a very important need

Amartya Sen, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics

A beautifully clear, inspiring, wise book with the potential not only to reinvent liberalism, but to transform our societies for the better

Johann Hari


Linda Yueh, author of The Great Economists and The Great Crashes

Daniel Chandler's provocative book helps make human possibilities more credible than they have been in our neoliberal age. Free and Equal doubles as an accessible guide to a leading philosophical system, and a call for a new agenda for justice in our time

Samuel Moyn, author of Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World

A magnificent attempt to apply fundamental philosophical principles to the practical building of a better world. Far-reaching and well-evidenced, it offers a new, coherent, principles-based approach to policy design

Professor Lord Richard Layard

So many of the answers to our dilemmas about democracy and inequality can be found in the philosophy of John Rawls. Daniel Chandler brings those answers to life with contemporary evidence and solutions. Read Free and Equal and feel hopeful about the future

Minouche Shafik

Many of us wonder idly why we can't live in a kinder world. Daniel Chandler has done us all a significant favour by devising a powerful analysis of exactly why the world is not presently kind and how it might become more so. An inspiring work which returns political philosophy to its rightful position: that of working out how to make things better

Alain de Botton

Lucid and well-informed

Philippe Van Parijs

Clear, brave, compelling. This book shows how to put values at the heart of politics in a rigorous way, and is an important contribution to the future of progressive politics

David Miliband

An exceptionally sane, judicious essay on what a viable democracy entails... [Chandler] develops a realistic, humane - and in its way, revolutionary - vision of a society committed to equity, inclusion and accountability. It should become an indispensable tool in political debate in the years ahead

Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury

Let's hope it is as widely read as it needs to be

Kate Pickett, author of The Spirit Level

A brilliantly eloquent, incredibly insightful reimagining of liberalism, and by such a compelling writer

Owen Jones

A book full of ideals and ideas, optimism grounded in action. It is as energising as it is timely

Andy Haldane, former Chief Economist of the Bank of England

This is a morally steadfast book, which liberalism's honest opponents should take for their target, and which will enliven liberal theory and perhaps even reinvigorate liberal political practice

Daniel Markovits

A rousing and original argument against hopelessness which will convince even the most jaded among us that a better public debate and a more just world are indeed within reach

Ryan Avent

A timely and thought-provoking look into society, Chandler's insights are much needed in today's world. Free and Equal offers a well-written perspective on how we live today and provides hope in practical ways for economies to operate for the better in the future

Rupal Patel

A breath of fresh air... Engaging, clear and persuasive

Literary Review

Serious, progressive, and grounded in a great political philosopher ... Such a contrast to the trivia about liberal elites

Will Hutton (via Twitter)


Matt Lucas (via Twitter)

Inspiring ... A stirring call for egalitarian liberalism based on the ideas of John Rawls


A stirringly hopeful book ... An exemplary demonstration of how public reasoning can be done ... This is a kind of erudite public intellectualism reminiscent of Amartya Sen, and is a welcome respite from the knee-jerk moralism that dominates the op-ed pages and social media

New Statesman

Powerfully argued and lucidly written

Financial Times

Important... skilful... Free and Equal is a shining example of how a lucid writer can make complex arguments clearer and develop practical proposals to improve society

Paschal Donohoe, Irish Times

Attractively written and strongly argued ... This is a welcome reminder of what progressive politics should be

Jonathan Wolff, Times Literary Supplement

Genuinely original... An inspiring catalogue of fresh ideas each with a clear and jargon-free philosophical underpinning drawn from Rawls' work

John Mitchinson, Byline Times

A crisp exposition of Rawls's principles ... skipping freely between gritty evidence and high theory, and grappling impressively and impatiently with practical obstacles to change ... Chandler is reminiscent of his one-time teacher, Amartya Sen


A refreshing and useful contribution to envisioning a better world… Free and Equal provides a model for what politically engaged philosophy should look like


A really vibrant piece of work, which provides social democrats with something there's been precious little of for a long time: inspiration

Ian Dunt, Waterstones (Book of the Year)

So refreshing to read substantive & beautifully expressed suggestions for improving almost everything

James O’Brien (via Twitter)

Strikingly innovative … Chandler’s exposition of Rawls is exemplary … [Free and Equal] offers a theoretical framework whose coherence and sophistication will commend it to many on the British left who are still searching for an organizing ideological horizon

The Critic

If liberal democracy is to survive as a form of government, it needs a complete rethink. So argues Chandler in this rousing homage to the political philosopher John Rawls

The New York Times

Welcomely ambitious ... Richly erudite and thoughtful ... A sanely conventional vision of a state reformed in the direction of ever greater fairness and equity, one able to curb the excesses of capitalism and to accommodate the demands of diversity

The New Yorker