Michael Walzer is one of America's leading political philosophers. He is a professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey and editor of Dissent, a left-wing quarterly of politics and culture. He has written on a wide range of topics, including just and unjust wars, nationalism, ethnicity, economic justice, social criticism, radicalism, tolerance, and political obligation. He is also a contributing editor to The New Republic and a member of the editorial board of Philosophy & Public Affairs. To date he has written 27 books and has published over 300 articles, essays, and book reviews. He is a member of several philosophical organizations including the American Philosophical Society.
Question: Do you ever worry that same countries will never allow liberal democracy to thrive?
Michael Walzer: Certainly, yes, I’ve had the experience of thinking that, but I’m not sure it’s a smart thought. Look at Korea, which has a common, the whole peninsula has a common history and a strong intellectual tradition, a strong cultural tradition, which is Buddhist and Confucian and, now, in the South, Christian. But the South is against all the odds, you would think, of a thriving democracy, and the North is a brutal tyranny, and I don't think anyone looking at Korea in the 1950’s would have predicted that the South would turn out the way it has. And so I assume that in other countries that don’t look as if they are likely to be receptive to the practices that democracy requires, the practice of opposition, the practice of tolerating opposition, the practice of a free press, the practice of party, of party organization. There are many countries where those practices don’t look natural, and whether they come or not, I think we don’t fully understand the processes by which those practices take hold, and I think they can take hold in unexpected places, and I hope they will.