Michael Walzer on World’s Potential for Democracy

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.

An optimist, Michael Walzer thinks every person can eventually embrace democracy.

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