Michael Walzer

Michael Laban Walzer (/ˈwɔːlzər/;[1] born 1935) is a prominent American political theorist and public intellectual. A professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton, New Jersey, he is co-editor of Dissent, an intellectual magazine that he has been affiliated with since his years as an undergraduate at Brandeis University. He has written books and essays on a wide range of topics—many in political ethics—including just and unjust wars, nationalism, ethnicity, Zionism, economic justice, social criticism, radicalism, tolerance, and political obligation. He is also a contributing editor to The New Republic. To date, he has written 27 books and published over 300 articles, essays, and book reviews in Dissent, The New Republic, The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Harpers, and many philosophical and political science journals.

Michael Walzer
Michael Laban Walzer

March 3, 1935 (age 84)
Alma mater
Notable work
Judith Borodovko Walzer (m. 1956)
EraContemporary philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
Main interests
Notable ideas

Early life and education

Born to a Jewish family[2] on March 3, 1935, Walzer graduated summa cum laude from Brandeis University in 1956 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history. He then studied at the University of Cambridge on a Fulbright Fellowship (1956–1957) and completed his doctoral work at Harvard University, earning his Doctor of Philosophy degree in government under Samuel Beer in 1961.


Michael Walzer is usually identified as one of the leading proponents of the communitarian position in political theory, along with Alasdair MacIntyre and Michael J. Sandel. Like Sandel and MacIntyre, Walzer is not completely comfortable with this label.[3] However, he has long argued that political theory must be grounded in the traditions and culture of particular societies, and has long opposed what he sees to be the excessive abstraction of political philosophy. His most important intellectual contributions include Just and Unjust Wars (1977), a revitalization of just war theory that insists on the importance of "ethics" in wartime while eschewing pacifism; the theory of "complex equality", which holds that the metric of just equality is not some single material or moral good, but rather that egalitarian justice demands that each good be distributed according to its social meaning, and that no good (like money or political power) be allowed to dominate or distort the distribution of goods in other spheres; and an argument that justice is primarily a moral standard within particular nations and societies, not one that can be developed in a universalized abstraction.

In On Toleration, he describes various examples of (and approaches to) toleration in various settings, including multinational empires such as Rome; nations in past and current-day international society; "consociations" such as Switzerland; nation-states such as France; and immigrant societies such as the United States. He concludes by describing a "post-modern" view, in which cultures within an immigrant nation have blended and inter-married to the extent that toleration becomes an intra-familial affair.[4]


Walzer was first employed in 1962 in the politics department at Princeton University. He stayed there until 1966, when he moved to the government department at Harvard. He taught at Harvard until 1980, when he became a permanent faculty member in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study. In spring 2014, he taught at Harvard Law School as Caroline Zelaznik Gruss and Joseph S. Gruss Visiting Professor in Talmudic Civil Law.[5]

In 1971, Walzer taught a semester-long course at Harvard with Robert Nozick called "Capitalism and Socialism". The course was a debate between the two philosophers: Nozick's side is delineated in Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974), and Walzer's side is expressed in his Spheres of Justice (1983), in which he argues for "complex equality".[6]

Walzer is a member of the editorial board of the Jewish Review of Books and an Advisory Editor at Fathom.

Awards and honors

In April 2008, Walzer received the prestigious Spinoza Lens, a bi-annual prize for ethics in the Netherlands. He has also been honoured with an emeritus professorship at the prestigious Institute for Advanced Study.

Personal life

Walzer is married to Judith Borodovko Walzer. They are parents of two daughters: Sarah Esther Walzer (born 1961) and Rebecca Leah Walzer (born 1966). His grandchildren are Joseph and Katya Barrett, and Jules and Stefan Walzer-Goldfeld.

Walzer is the older brother of historian Judith Walzer Leavitt.

Published works

  • The Revolution of the Saints: A Study in the Origins of Radical Politics (Harvard University Press, 1965) ISBN 0-674-76786-1
  • Obligations: Essays on Disobedience, War and Citizenship (Harvard University Press, 1970) ISBN 0-674-63025-4
  • Political Action (Quadrangle Books, 1971) ISBN 0-8129-0173-8
  • Regicide and Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 1974) ISBN 0-231-08259-2
  • Just and Unjust Wars (Basic Books, 1977; second edition, 1992; third edition, 2000, ISBN 0-465-03705-4; fourth edition, 2006, ISBN 0-465-03707-0); fifth edition, 2015.
  • Radical Principles (Basic Books, 1977) ISBN 0-465-06824-3
  • Spheres of Justice (Basic Books, 1983) ISBN 0-465-08189-4
  • Exodus and Revolution (Basic Books, 1985) ISBN 0-465-02164-6
  • Interpretation and Social Criticism (Harvard University Press, 1987) ISBN 0-674-45971-7
  • The Company of Critics (Basic Books, 1988) ISBN 0-465-01331-7
  • Zivile Gesellschaft und amerikanische Demokratie (Rotbuch Verlag, 1992) ISBN 3-596-13077-8 (collection of essays in German collection; the title translates as "Civil Society and American Democracy")
  • What It Means to Be an American (Marsilio Publishers, 1992) ISBN 1-56886-025-0
  • Thick and Thin: Moral Argument at Home and Abroad (Notre Dame Press, 1994) ISBN 0-268-01897-9
  • Pluralism, Justice and Equality, with David Miller (Oxford University Press, 1995) ISBN 0-19-828008-4
  • Toward a Global Civil Society (Berghahn Books, 1995) ISBN 1-57181-054-4
  • On Toleration (Yale University Press, 1997) ISBN 0-268-01897-9
  • Arguments from the Left (Atlas, 1997, in Swedish)
  • Pluralism and Democracy (Editions Esprit, 1997, in French) ISBN 2-909210-19-7
  • Reason, Politics, and Passion (Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 1999, in German) ISBN 3-596-14439-6
  • The Jewish Political Tradition, Vol. I: Authority. co-edited with Menachem Lorberbaum, Noam Zohar, and Yair Lorberbaum (Yale University Press, 2000) ISBN 0-300-09428-0
  • Exilic Politics in the Hebrew Bible (Mohr Siebeck, 2001, in German) ISBN 3-16-147543-7
  • War, Politics, and Morality (Ediciones Paidos (es), 2001, in Spanish) ISBN 84-493-1167-5
  • The Jewish Political Tradition, Vol. II: Membership. co-edited with Menachem Lorberbaum, Noam Zohar, and Yair Lorberbaum (Yale University Press, 2003) ISBN 978-0-300-09428-2
  • Arguing About War (Yale University Press, 2004) ISBN 0-300-10365-4
  • Politics and Passion: Toward A More Egalitarian Liberalism (Yale University Press, 2004) ISBN 0-300-10328-X
  • Law, Politics, and Morality in Judaism. edited by Walzer (Princeton University Press, 2006) ISBN 0-691-12508-2
  • Thinking Politically (Yale University Press, 2007) ISBN 978-0-300-11816-2
  • In God's Shadow: Politics in the Hebrew Bible (Yale University Press, 2012) ISBN 978-0-300-18044-2
  • The Paradox of Liberation (Yale University Press, 2015) ISBN 978-0-300-18780-9
  • Perry Anderson's House of Zion: A Symposium, Fathom, Spring 2016
  • Debating Michael Walzer's 'Islamism and the Left', Fathom, Summer 2015
  • A Foreign Policy for the Left (Yale University Press, 2018) ISBN 978-0300223873

See also


  1. ^ Michael Walzer: The Free Market and Morality on YouTube
  2. ^ Arkush, Allan (August 8, 2012). "Michael Walzer's Secular Jewish Thought". Journal of Modern Jewish Studies. 11 (2): 221–241. doi:10.1080/14725886.2012.684859.
  3. ^ Communitarianism > Notes (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
  4. ^ Walzer, Michael (1997). On Toleration. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-07600-4.
  5. ^ harvard.edu
  6. ^ Interview with E. J. Dionne

External links

American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy

The American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy (ASPLP) is a learned society founded in 1955 by political theorist Carl Friedrich. The ASPLP's annual thematic conferences form the foundation for the Nomos series. The ASPLP operates according to a distinctive three-discipline structure. Its annual meetings rotate on a three-year cycle, meeting in conjunction with the Association of American Law Schools, the American Political Science Association, and the American Philosophical Association (Eastern Division). Its presidency rotates among the three disciplines, with vice-presidents always representing the other two. And its conferences consist of three lead papers, one from each discipline, each with two commentators from the other two disciplines.

Nomos, now published by New York University Press, has published work by some of the leading political and legal theorists of the twentieth century, from a wide range of ideological and methodological perspectives, including Hannah Arendt, Isaiah Berlin, Lon Fuller, John Rawls, Robert Nozick, Michael Walzer, Judith Shklar, Cass Sunstein, Martha Nussbaum, Richard Posner, Sheldon Wolin, James Buchanan, Catharine MacKinnon, Jules Coleman, Jean Hampton, Jon Elster, George Kateb, and Richard Epstein. The series was edited by Friedrich for volumes I-IX, coedited by J. Roland Pennock and John Chapman for volumes IX-XXXI, and edited by Chapman alone for XXXI-XXXV. Since then, series editors have included Ian Shapiro, Stephen Macedo, Melissa Williams, Sanford Levinson, and James Fleming. The series is currently co-edited by Andrew Rehfeld (Washington University Political Science) and Jack Knight (Duke Law School).

Association Reset-Dialogues on Civilizations

Reset-Dialogues on Civilizations is an association founded in 2005 with the purpose of promoting dialogue between different cultures through seminars, international conferences, educational activities, publications, translations and an online magazine called Reset-DoC (www.resetdoc.org). Reset-DoC is published in English and Italian, with some articles in other languages, such as Arabic. Reset was founded by Nina zu Fürstenberg (president) and Giancarlo Bosetti (director) with a board of directors that includes Francesco Micheli (vice president), Piergaetano Marchetti, Georg Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza (honorary president and former association president) and Giuliano Amato (president of the scientific committee). Reset is based in Rome. In 2010, a legally recognized partner association was founded in the United States.Within the framework of the defense of human rights, this association’s stated objective is to oppose the concept of cultural, racial and religious conflicts, encourage better reciprocal knowledge between people belonging to different cultures, in particular between the East and the West, between Islamic and Western countries and also support policies for the integration of immigrants. The association was founded in cooperation with the Italian bi-monthly political-cultural magazine “Reset” of which Giancarlo Bosetti is editor-in-chief, but has developed at an international level with publications in English (special editions of Philosophy&Social Criticism, SAGE publications, in 2010 and 2011, a special issue of the Indian magazine Seminar, May 2011), in Italian (the collection ‘Libri di Reset-Marsilio’) and with conferences, lectures and seminars held in Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, Qatar, Switzerland, India and Italy.The members of Reset’s scientific committee are:

Giuliano Amato (President), Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, Abdou Filali-Ansary, Seyla Benhabib, Giancarlo Bosetti, Fred Dallmayr, Silvio Fagiolo, Maria Teresa Fumagalli Beonio Brocchieri, Nina zu Fürstenberg, Timothy Garton Ash, Anthony Giddens, Vartan Gregorian, Lorenzo Guolo, Hassan Hanafi, Roman Herzog, Ramin Jahanbegloo, Jörg Lau, Amos Luzzatto, Avishai Margalit, Krzysztof Michalski, Andrea Riccardi, Olivier Roy, Otto Schily, Karel Schwarzenberg, Roberto Toscano, Bassam Tibi, Nadia Urbinati, Umberto Veronesi, Michael Walzer.

Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd was a member of Reset from the time it was founded until his death in July 2010.

Center for Ethics at Yeshiva University

The Center for Ethics at Yeshiva University, located on Yeshiva University’s Wilf Campus in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood, fosters research on ethical issues and the integration of discourse on ethics into the curriculum among Yeshiva University’s schools. The Center seeks to provide opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration among Yeshiva University’s schools.

Adrienne Asch, PhD, the center’s director, is the Edward and Robin Milstein Professor of Bioethics at Wurzweiler School of Social Work and Professor of Epidemiology and Population Health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, both Yeshiva University graduate professional schools.

The Center’s activities include:

the creation of new courses and curricular materials for undergraduate and professional education

lectures, workshops, and conferences with leading international scholars and experts from across the spectrum of Jewish thinking

faculty seminars examining particular themes and topics, resulting in the publication of original researchThe Center also hosts the Leonard and Tobee Kaplan Scholar-in-Residence program, designed to provide opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration among Yeshiva University's schools. In 2007, Michael Walzer served as the Center's inaugural scholar-in-residence. In 2008, Onora O'Neill will serve as scholar-in-residence.


Communitarianism is a philosophy that emphasizes the connection between the individual and the community. Its overriding philosophy is based upon the belief that a person's social identity and personality are largely molded by community relationships, with a smaller degree of development being placed on individualism. Although the community might be a family, communitarianism usually is understood, in the wider, philosophical sense, as a collection of interactions, among a community of people in a given place (geographical location), or among a community who share an interest or who share a history. Communitarianism usually opposes extreme individualism and disagrees with extreme laissez-faire policies that neglect the stability of the overall community.

Complex equality

Complex equality is a theory of justice outlined by Michael Walzer in his 1983 work Spheres of Justice. It is considered innovative because of its emphasis on the broader conceptualization of distribution, which covers not only tangible goods but also abstract goods such as rights. The theory is distinguished from simple equality since it allows certain inequalities in social goods.

Dissent (American magazine)

Dissent is a left-wing intellectual magazine edited by Michael Kazin and Timothy Shenk and founded in 1954. The magazine is published by the University of Pennsylvania Press on behalf of the Foundation for the Study of Independent Social Ideas. Former co-editors include Irving Howe, Mitchell Cohen, Michael Walzer, and David Marcus.

Domestic analogy

Domestic analogy is an international affairs term coined by Professor Hedley Bull. Domestic analogy is the idea that states are like a "society of individuals". The analogy makes the presumption that relations between individuals and relations between states are the same. The domestic analogy is used when aggression is explained as the international equivalent of armed robbery or murder. A person can look at international affairs like a society of people, except there is no police, and every conflict threatens the structure as a whole with collapse.In his famous book Just and Unjust Wars, Michael Walzer uses the term to explain what is a just and unjust war.

Douglas Gale

Douglas Gale FBA is professor of economics, Imperial College Business School. He was elected a fellow of the British Academy in 2016. Gale is a specialist in general equilibrium theory, financial economics and banking, experimental economics and decision theory.

Interpretation and Social Criticism

Interpretation and Social Criticism is a 1987 book about political philosophy by Michael Walzer.

Jewish Review of Books

The Jewish Review of Books is a quarterly magazine with articles on literature, culture and current affairs from a Jewish perspective. It is published in New York City.

The magazine was launched in 2010 with an editorial board that includes Michael Walzer and Ruth Wisse, Shlomo Avineri and Ruth Gavison. The editor is Abraham Socher.

The magazine is funded by the Tikvah Fund, founded by Zalman Bernstein, which also sponsored the Jewish Ideas Daily. The initial press run was 30,000 copies. An affiliate of the fund, Bee.Ideas, LLC, also publishes Mosaic, a magazine launched in June 2013 as the successor to the Jewish Ideas Daily.According to The Jewish Week, the JRB is "unabashedly" modeled after the venerable New York Review of Books.Harvey Pekar and Tara Seibel collaborated on comic strips for the first two issues of the magazine.

Judith Walzer Leavitt

Judith Walzer Leavitt (born July 22, 1940) is an American historian.

She was the Rupple Bascom and Ruth Bleier Professor of History of Medicine, History of Science, and Women's Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her book subjects have included a study of Mary Mallon, a history of childbirth in America, and a history of public health in Milwaukee. She is the wife of Waisman Center medical director Lewis Leavitt, as well as the sister of political theorist Michael Walzer.

She is a past president of the American Association for the History of Medicine, and an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Leavitt received her B.A. from Antioch College in 1963, and her M.A.T., M.A., and PhD in history from the University of Chicago in 1975.

Just and Unjust Wars

Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations is a 1977 book by the philosopher Michael Walzer. Published by Basic Books, it is still in print, now as part of the Basic Books Classics Series. A second edition was published in 1992, a third edition in 2000, a fourth edition in 2006, and a fifth edition in 2015. The book resulted from Walzer's reflections on the Vietnam War.

Katz Editores

Katz Editores is an independent Argentine scholarly publisher, founded in 2006. It publishes mostly translations from English, German, French, and Italian into Spanish, but also original Spanish-language texts. As of April 2009, their list numbered over 100 titles by authors representing a diverse array of intellectual traditions, such as Karl Löwith, Jürgen Habermas, Michael Walzer, Roger Chartier, Claus Offe, Martha Nussbaum, Seyla Benhabib, Cass Sunstein, Harry Frankfurt, Leo Strauss, Norbert Bolz, Michel de Certeau, Roberto Esposito, Ernst Mayr, Cornelius Castoriadis, Hans Belting, Robert Laughlin, and Eric Kandel. The editors wrote in their first catalog that they founded their press "with a calling to contribute to broadening the horizons of knowledge available in our language, but also with the conviction that it is necessary to interrogate many of the ideas that organize the viewpoints of the contemporary world."

List of Jewish American philosophers

This is a list of famous Jewish American philosophers.

For other famous Jewish Americans, see Lists of Jewish Americans.

Peter Achinstein, philosopher of science

Mortimer Adler, philosopher (converted to Episcopalianism in 1984 and then to Catholicism in 2000)

Paul Benacerraf, philosopher

Max Black, analytic philosopher

Joseph Blau, philosopher

Ned Block, philosopher of mind

Allan Bloom, political philosopher

George Boolos, logician

Justus Buchler

Judith Butler

Stanley Cavell, philosopher

Noam Chomsky, linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, and activist

Morris Raphael Cohen, philosopher

Norman Daniels, political philosopher

Arthur Danto, philosophy of aesthetics

Hubert Dreyfus, critic of cognitivism

Ronald Dworkin, legal philosopher

Irwin Edman

Paul Edwards

Jonathan Epstein, philosopher

Marvin Farber, philosopher, phenomenology

Solomon Feferman, logician

Herbert Feigl, philosopher of science

Stanley Fish, literary theorist

Jerry Fodor, philosopher of mind

Philipp Frank, logical positivist

Tamar Szabo Gendler, philosopher of mind

Eugene Gendlin, philosopher of the implicit

Bernard Gert, ethicist

Alvin Goldman, epistemology, Goldman's barn example

Nelson Goodman, philosopher, metaphysical relativism, new riddle of induction

Paul Gottfried, political philosopher

Sam Harris, philosopher, author, neuroscientist

Sidney Hook, philosopher

Hans Jonas, philosopher

Walter Kaufmann, philosopher

Saul Kripke, logician

Thomas S. Kuhn, philosopher of science

Abraham Low, critic of psychoanalysis

Ruth Barcan Marcus, logician

Joseph Margolis, philosopher, pragmatism

Sidney Morgenbesser, philosopher

Ernest Nagel, philosopher of science

Thomas Nagel, philosophy of mind

Robert Nozick, libertarianism

Martha Nussbaum, ethics

Richard Popkin, philosopher

Hilary Putnam, philosopher, functionalism

Ayn Rand, founder of the Objectivist philosophy (a refugee from communist Russia)

Murray Rothbard, political philosopher

Daniel Rynhold, philosopher of religion

Michael Sandel, communitarianism

Menachem Mendel Schneerson, religious philosopher

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, queer theorist

Susanna Siegel, philosopher of mind

Joseph Soloveitchik, religious philosopher

Leo Strauss, political philosopher

Alfred Tarski, logician, mathematician, philosopher

Judith Jarvis Thomson, moral philosopher

Michael Walzer, philosopher

Jack Russell Weinstein, philosopher

Dan Wikler, ethicist

Harry Austryn Wolfson, philosopher

Edith Wyschogrod, philosopher

Stephen Yablo, philosopher

List of political philosophers

This is a list of notable political philosophers, including some who may be better known for their work in other areas of philosophy. Note, however, that the list is for people who are principally philosophers.

The philosophers are listed in order by year of birth to show rough direction of influences and of development of political thought. See also, Political philosophy.

Ancient, medieval and early modern

Modern (born pre-19th century)

Born in 19th century

Born in 20th century

List of political theorists

A political theorist is someone who engages in constructing or evaluating political theory, including political philosophy. Theorists may be academics or independent scholars.

Michael Wright (academic)

Michael Wright FBA is professor of entrepreneurship at Imperial College Business School. He is a fellow of the British Academy elected in 2016.

Spheres of Justice

Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality is a 1983 book by the philosopher Michael Walzer.

Thick and thin

Colloquially, thick and thin means good times and bad times.

Thick and thin may refer to:

"Thick and Thin", a song by Avenged Sevenfold on Sounding the Seventh Trumpet

"Thick N' Thin", a song by The Black Crowes on Shake Your Money Maker

"Thick & Thin", a song by Ten City on No House Big Enough

Thick and thin, opposing philosophical concepts discussed by political theorist Michael Walzer

Thick and thin, forms of the rule of law present in Chinese law

Social theories
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Legal theory
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