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Michael Walzer
Born (1935-03-03) March 3, 1935 (age 79)
New York
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Analytic  · Communitarianism
Main interests Political philosophy  · Human rights  · Ethics · Just war theory  · Liberalism  · Value pluralism  · Social criticism  · Internationalism

Michael Walzer (/ˈwɔːlzər/;[1] March 3, 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.


In 1956, Walzer graduated summa cum laude from Brandeis University with a B.A. in history. He then studied at the University of Cambridge on a Fulbright Fellowship (1956–1957) and completed his doctoral work at Harvard, earning his Ph.D. in government 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.[citation needed] However, he has long argued that political theory must be grounded in the traditions and culture of particular societies and 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.[2]


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.[3]

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".[4]

Walzer is a member of the editorial board of the Jewish Review of Books and an Advisory Editor at Fathom: For a deeper understanding of Israel and the region.

Awards and honors[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Michael Walzer: The Free Market and Morality on YouTube
  2. ^ Michael Walzer, On Toleration, (New Haven: Yale University Press 1997) ISBN 0-300-07600-2
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Interview with E. J. Dionne

Sources and external links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Walzer — Please support Wikipedia.
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163921 videos foundNext > 

Michael Walzer on Just War Theory

No government will send young men into battle to kill and be killed without offering some justification for what they are doing, Walzer says.

Michael Walzer: The Free Market and Morality

http://bit.ly/ipdlbb - The Princeton professor answers the Big Question "Does the free market corrode moral character?" http://www.templeton.org/market.

What Is Just War Theory, Michael Walzer, Feb. 21, 2013

For the entire collection of Westmont College's lectures, chapels and events, go to http://itunes.apple.com/us/institution/westmont-college/id394017358.

Michael Walzer on Just War in Iraq

Should citizens feel guilty for not joining the army to end the Iraq war? Question: Was going to war with Iraq necessary or just?Transcript:I thought it wasn...

A Conversation with Michael Walzer

Michael Walzer, Professor Emeritus of Social Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS), talks about his life and career with Nancy Rosenblum, Profes...

Michael Walzer on Just War and Humanitarian Intervention

Someone has to intervene in Darfur, Michael Walzer says; not necessarily the U.S. Michael Walzer: Yes, I think, I think Darfur is the obvious place, and what...

Michael Walzer on Whether Drones Should Be Banned

For more on this event, visit: http://bit.ly/W7n7qb For a full-length video of this event, visit: http://bit.ly/13bSSox For more on the Berkley Center, visit...

Michael Walzer - Ein streitbarer, amerikanicher Philosoph

Dieses Video lade ich nur zur Information hoch. Es stellt keine Meinung oder Einstellung von mir dar. Walzer wird als Komunitarist angesehen: Die Verantwortu...

Michael Walzer: Who are you?

A Jewish red-diaper baby.

Michael Walzer: What is justice?

Walzer equates justice with equality. Question: What is justice? Michael Walzer: Well, again coming at this from left perspective, I connect justice with equ...

163921 videos foundNext > 

40 news items

Irish Independent

American Spectator (blog)
Thu, 31 Jul 2014 08:46:18 -0700

In early 2002, only months after the attacks of September 11, 2001, Michael Walzer penned an article in the socialist quarterly Dissent which asked, "Can There Be a Decent Left?" Walzer answers his question in the negative in a piece written forThe New ...

The New Republic

The New Republic
Wed, 30 Jul 2014 13:49:52 -0700

When it comes to the conflict in Gaza, the critical question, "Cui bono?"—"To whose benefit?"—suggests that this is Hamas's war. It is a reckless gamble by an organization that was in deep trouble, and the gamble (so far) is paying off, at terrible ...

Sky News Australia

Wed, 13 Aug 2014 11:33:45 -0700

For many years, Michael Walzer has been a significant obstacle to the possibility that the liberal American Jewish community—increasingly uneasy about Israel, but unsure what to believe—will realize that Israel is sliding into a moral, political, and ...
Tablet Magazine
Tue, 19 Aug 2014 21:30:00 -0700

To be a good son, one must be what Michael Walzer calls a “connected critic,” one who includes himself in what he is criticizing, rather than a mere enemy. For Judaism, the threat of the wicked son, the disconnected critic, has been especially ...

San Diego Jewish World

San Diego Jewish World
Mon, 21 Jul 2014 17:39:45 -0700

“It is a central principle of just war theory,” observed Dr. Michael Walzer, Professor Emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study, “that the self-defense of a people or a country cannot be made morally impossible.” Israel faces that precise dilemma ...
La Repubblica
Sat, 26 Jul 2014 05:12:49 -0700

Walzer: "Un conflitto folle per Israele, Hamas ne uscirà più forte" Michael Walzer "ITEORICI della "guerra giusta" e gli strateghi militari s'affannano a sbrogliare il dilemma morale che pone la guerra di Gaza. Il primo interrogativo è questo: in che ...
SCOTUSblog (blog)
Mon, 11 Aug 2014 07:46:51 -0700

I can well remember pouring over Michael Walzer's 1985 lectures on Interpretation and Social Criticism, and Justice Antonin Scalia's 1994 lectures on Common Law Courts in a Civil-Law System. These were important moments in my own intellectual ...

The New Republic

The New Republic
Tue, 12 Aug 2014 20:11:15 -0700

There's a strain of liberal political theory, most compellingly formulated by Michael Walzer, that holds that a community's sense of social solidarity and self-determination depends on its ability to deny membership to outsiders. This sounds like a ...

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