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: What do you make of the global resurgence of religious alliances?
Michael Walzer: Well, first of all it was entirely unexpected, especially by left intellectuals. We all brought into the theory of seculars, secularization. This was a long-term inevitable historical tendency. It was the product of modern science and education and democratic politics and--everything was going to set people free from religious authority and increasingly make religious belief less and less tenable, so we thought. And it’s possible that we may still be right over the very, very long run. Secularization seems to be a fact of life in Europe, except among the Muslim emigrants. Churchgoing is radically down and people who say they believe that those numbers are radically down. The New York Times yesterday published some recent poll data suggesting that though America is far behind Europe and we are caught up in the same process, and the number of people describing them as religiously, describing themselves since religiously unaffiliated has grown quite sharply in the past 10, 15, 20 years. Still, there has clearly been in Islam, in Judaism and among, and in Christianity, the rise of a new kind of orthodox or fundamentalism or zealotry, and in Buddhism also and in Hinduism. And in all of these cases it has been associated with right-wing politics and sometimes with violence against opponents, and that is a political challenge, a totally unexpected political challenge, to left, secular, liberal, politics. And we're all fumbling with how to with how to respond.