Michael Walzer

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Michael Walzer in 2002

Michael Walzer (born March 3, 1935) is a prominent American political theorist and public intellectual.


  • According to liberal political theory, as first formulated by John Locke, any individual citizen, oppressed by the rulers of the state, has a right to disobey their commands, break their laws, even rebel and seek to replace the rulers and change the laws.
    • "The Obligation to Disobey," Ethics, Vol. 77, No. 3 (April 1967), p. 163
  • Disobedience, when it is not criminally but morally, religiously, or politically motivated, is almost always a collective act, and it is justified by the values of the collectivity and the mutual engagements of its members.
    • "The Obligation to Disobey," Ethics, Vol. 77, No. 3 (April 1967), p. 163
  • The state is invisible...(it) needs to be symbolised before it can be loved.
    • A 1967 paper[1]
  • Writers who opted out of the referential system and who avoided or escaped the common experience are not part of the Jewish political tradition, even if they are still Jews writing about politics. Karl Marx on class struggle, Sigmund Freud on transference and political leadership, Emile Durkheim on socialism and "moral education," George Simmel on the philosophy of money—these text do not fall within the tradition. Baruch Spinoza's political theology does, despite his excommunication, for Spinoza writes always with the tradition in mind: the Hebrew Bible is his first text; the greatest of medieval Jewish philosophers, Moses Maimonides, is his crucial reference. Modern secular writers like Ahad Ha-am (Asher Ginsberg) and Micha Josef Berdichevsky, schooled in the communities of eastern Europe, still know the tradition and work within it, or at least start from it—even if one of their purposes is an antitraditionalist critique: criticism is a form of engagement. Many of their successors, by contrast, are largely ignorant and entirely disengaged.
    • "Introduction," The Jewish Political Tradition Volume one "Authority", Yale University Press, 2000, p. xxiii

Quotes about Michael Walzer[edit]

  • For him, political symbolism is not a value addition to the idea of state; it is in fact representative of the idea itself. Indeed, owing to their existence in the abstract, political ideas and beliefs need a medium of expression.[1]
  • Michael Walzer, probably the most distinguished philosopher of justice in war, repeatedly points to India’s Bangladesh war as a canonical example of a justifiable humanitarian intervention, in a radical emergency when there was no other plausible way to save innocent human lives.
    • Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide. Epilogue

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