Walser Just And Unjust Wars Critique Essay

Michael Walzer
Born(1935-03-03) March 3, 1935 (age 83)
New York
Alma materBrandeis University
University of Cambridge
Harvard University
EraContemporary philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy

Main interests

Political philosophy  ·Human rights  ·Ethics ·Just war theory  ·Liberalism  ·Value pluralism  ·Social criticism  ·Internationalism

Notable ideas

Dirty hands, complex equality

Michael Walzer (;[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.[2] 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.[3]


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.[4]

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".[5]

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

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]

  • 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)
  • 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

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

  • Dissent Quarterly magazine of politics and culture edited by Michael Walzer
  • Walzer's biography at the Institute for Advanced Study
  • "Arguing about War" Review of Walzer's Arguing about War in n+1 magazine
  • The Argument about Humanitarian Intervention By Michael Walzer
  • Micha Odenheimer, A “Connected Critic”, Micha Odenheimer speaks with an individual who has carved out a space for himself as a left-wing supporter of Israel, Eretz Acheret Magazine
  • Review of Thinking Politically, Barcelona Metropolis, 2010.
  • A Conversation with Michael Walzer Video interview, 2012.
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
  • For an analysis of communitarianism see: Gad Barzilai, Communities and Law: Politics and Cultures of Legal Identities (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003)
  • The Future of Liberal Zionism: An interview with Michael Walzer, 20 September 2012]
  • The Jewish Political Tradition, 26 April 2013
  • Perry Anderson's House of Zion: A symposium - Fathom Journal

Analysis of Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations

1181 Words5 Pages

Analysis of Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations

Michael Walzer first wrote Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with

Historical Illustrations in the years following the Vietnam War, and unfortunately its

premise on morality in war will always remain as relevant as it was then as it is now, with

conflict between states forever existing. Michael Walzer is one of the most prominent

social critics in North America and in this book, he explores two main concepts, the

justice of war and the justice in war in a great depth, and uses numerous historical

references to support his claims. It is a very well configured piece, written in such a way

of persuasion that your personal view…show more content…

In a ‘just’ war the

combat is between combatants only. A perfect example of this occurred in the Gulf War;

The pilots in the Gulf War had specific orders to support this requirement, becaused if

they were unable to get a clear shot on their assigned targets, they were instructed to

return with their bombs and missiles intact.

Walzer also addresses the rules of war as applied to soldiers on foot involved in

battle. Walzer’s central principle on warfare is that soldiers on both sides of battle have

the equal right to kill. Under this central principle are two groups of restrictions; The first

group of these pertains to when and how soldiers can kill, and the second details whom

they can kill. An observer cannot decipher between war and murder without such

limitations. Walzer stays primarily concerned with the second group of restrictions.

Traditionally, these protected groups have included people who are not actively engaged

in the act of war (i.e. women, children, priests etc.), simplistically expressed by Walzer as

“They can try to kill me, and I can try to kill them. But it is wrong to cut the throats of

their wounded or to shoot them down when they are trying to surrender" (Walzer 38).

War is generally thought of as a business of the

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