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: How do you define yourself as a political theorist?
Michael Walzer: Ok, well, first of all, I am a political theorist, who is interested in politics, which isn’t true of all political theorists. In the academic world, there are a lot of political theorists who are interested in political theory and not particularly in politics. And they write about other people’s political theories and I have tried not to do that, but always to write more directly about political life, and I am interested in war having grown up during World War II, and having participated in the anti-Vietnam war movement in the 60s. I am interested in justice partly because of civil rights, and partly because that’s a steady concern of left politics. I have been interested, because I am a Jewish American, or American Jew, in multiculturalism and pluralism and all the issues revolving around assimilation, integration, separation and so on. And those are the things I have mostly written about. Recorded on: 2/27/08