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Michael Laban Walzer
March 3, 1935
Judith Borodovko Walzer(m. 1956)
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Michael Laban Walzer ( // ; 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.
Born to a Jewish familyon 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.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.
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.
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".
Walzer is a member of the editorial board of the Jewish Review of Books and an Advisory Editor at Fathom .
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. He was elected to a Fellowship of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 1971, and to a Corresponding Fellowship of the British Academy in 2016.
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.
John Locke was an English philosopher and physician, widely regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers and commonly known as the "Father of Liberalism". Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Sir Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social contract theory. His work greatly affected the development of epistemology and political philosophy. His writings influenced Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, as well as the American revolutionaries. His contributions to classical republicanism and liberal theory are reflected in the United States Declaration of Independence.
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, 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.
John Bordley Rawls was an American moral and political philosopher in the liberal tradition. Rawls received both the Schock Prize for Logic and Philosophy and the National Humanities Medal in 1999, the latter presented by President Bill Clinton, in recognition of how Rawls' work "helped a whole generation of learned Americans revive their faith in democracy itself."
Thomas Sowell is an American economist and social theorist who is currently a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
A Theory of Justice is a 1971 work of political philosophy and ethics by the philosopher John Rawls, in which the author addresses the problem of distributive justice. The theory uses an updated form of Kantian philosophy and a variant form of conventional social contract theory. Rawls's theory of justice is fully a political theory of justice as opposed to other forms of justice discussed in other disciplines and contexts.
"Justice as Fairness: Political not Metaphysical" is an essay by John Rawls, published in 1985. In it he describes his conception of justice. It comprises two main principles of liberty and equality; the second is subdivided into Fair Equality of Opportunity and the Difference Principle.
Toleration is the allowing, permitting, or acceptance of an action, idea, object, or person which one dislikes or disagrees with. Random House Dictionary defines tolerance as "a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, beliefs, practices, racial or ethnic origins, etc., differ from one's own". Toleration may signify "no more than forbearance and the permission given by the adherents of a dominant religion for other religions to exist, even though the latter are looked on with disapproval as inferior, mistaken, or harmful."
Cass Robert Sunstein FBA is an American legal scholar, particularly in the fields of constitutional law, administrative law, environmental law, and law and behavioral economics, and the New York Times best-selling author of The World According to Star Wars (2016) and Nudge (2008). He was the Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2012.
Amitai Etzioni is a German-born Israeli and American sociologist, best known for his work on socioeconomics and communitarianism. He founded the Communitarian Network, a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to supporting the moral, social, and political foundations of society. He was called the “guru” of the communitarian movement in the early 1990s, and he established the Communitarian Network to disseminate the movement's ideas. His writings emphasize the importance of having a carefully-crafted balance between individual rights and social responsibilities, and between autonomy and order, in all societies. In 2001, Etzioni was named among the top 100 American intellectuals, as measured by academic citations, in Richard Posner's book, Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline. Etzioni is currently the Director of the Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies at The George Washington University, where he also serves as a University Professor and professor of International Affairs. His most recent book, called Reclaiming Patriotism, was published by University of Virginia Press in September 2019.
Robert Bernard Alter is an American professor of Hebrew and comparative literature at the University of California, Berkeley, where he has taught since 1967. He published his translation of the Hebrew Bible in 2018.
Susan Moller Okin was a liberal feminist political philosopher and author.
Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality is a 1983 book by the philosopher Michael Walzer.
Ian Shapiro is Sterling Professor of Political Science and Henry R. Luce Director of the MacMillan Center at Yale University. He is known primarily for interventions in debates on democracy and on methods of conducting social science research. In democratic theory, he has argued that democracy's value comes primarily from its potential to limit domination rather than, as is conventionally assumed, from its operation as a system of participation, representation, or preference aggregation. In debates about social scientific methods, he is chiefly known for rejecting prevalent theory-driven and method-driven approaches in favor of starting with a problem and then devising suitable methods to study it.
Odd Arne Westad FBA is a Norwegian historian specializing in the Cold War and contemporary East Asian history. He is the Elihu Professor of History and Global Affairs at Yale University, where he teaches in the Yale History Department and in the Jackson Institute of Global Affairs. Previously, Westad held the S.T. Lee Chair of US-Asia Relations at Harvard University, teaching in the John F. Kennedy School of Government. Westad has also taught at LSE, where he served as director of LSE IDEAS. In the spring semester 2019 Westad was Boeing Company Chair in International Relations at Schwarzman College, Tsinghua University.
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.
Menachem Lorberbaum is an Israeli professor and the chair of the School of Philosophy at Tel Aviv University.
The paradox of tolerance states that if a society is tolerant without limit, its ability to be tolerant is eventually seized or destroyed by the intolerant. Karl Popper described it as the seemingly paradoxical idea that, "In order to maintain a tolerant society, the society must be intolerant of intolerance." The paradox of tolerance is an important concept for thinking about which boundaries can or should be set.
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.
Political ethics is the practice of making moral judgements about political action and political agents. It covers two areas. The first is the ethics of process, which deals with public officials and the methods they use. The second area, the ethics of policy concerns judgments about policies and laws.
Sean McMeekin is an American historian. He is a specialist in European history of the early 20th century, especially regarding the origins of the First World War, and the role of Russia and the Ottoman Empire. He is currently Francis Flournoy Professor of European History and Culture at Bard College in upstate New York.
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