Politics and Passion: Toward a More Egalitarian Liberalism

Politics and Passion: Toward a More Egalitarian Liberalism

by Michael Walzer
     
 

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Liberalism is egalitarian in principle, but why doesn’t it do more to promote equality in practice? In this book, the distinguished political philosopher Michael Walzer offers a critique of liberal theory and demonstrates that crucial realities have been submerged in the evolution of contemporary liberal thought.

In the standard versions of liberal

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Overview

Liberalism is egalitarian in principle, but why doesn’t it do more to promote equality in practice? In this book, the distinguished political philosopher Michael Walzer offers a critique of liberal theory and demonstrates that crucial realities have been submerged in the evolution of contemporary liberal thought.

In the standard versions of liberal theory, autonomous individuals deliberate about what ought to be done—but in the real world, citizens also organize, mobilize, bargain, and lobby. The real world is more contentious than deliberative. Ranging over hotly contested issues including multiculturalism, pluralism, difference, civil society, and racial and gender justice, Walzer suggests ways in which liberal theory might be revised to make it more hospitable to the claims of equality.

Combining profound learning with practical wisdom, Michael Walzer offers a provocative reappraisal of the core tenets of liberal thought. Politics and Passion will be required reading for anyone interested in social justice—and the means by which we seek to achieve it.

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Editorial Reviews

Foreign Affairs
In this elegant and probing critique of contemporary liberal thought, Walzer argues that standard liberalism-in which autonomous individuals deliberate and move freely among groups in an open society-fails to come to grips with the pre-existing cultural, religious, and social associations that shape identities and choices and misses the deeper importance of social conflict and the role of passion in democratic political life. Walzer's overriding worry is that liberal theory's neglect of "collective powerlessness, the problems posed by cultural marginality, the hierarchies of civil society, the politics of social conflict, and the force of passionate engagement" renders the struggle against inequality more difficult. Social structures and political orders that sustain inequality can be effectively opposed only through political struggle driven by the kind of "passionate intensity" that liberals fear. Walzer is most persuasive in arguing that liberalism's focus on deliberative democracy misses the deeper social forces that ultimately determine the character-and justness-of the polity. But the political passion that he thinks is necessary to confront hierarchy and inequality can also put at risk the interest-based compromises on which modern democracy rests.
From the Publisher
"In this elegant and incisive book, Michael Walzer draws on everyday political experience to open up some of the theoretical dead-ends in which contemporary democratic theory has become stalled. The book’s positive, constructive emphasis will make it useful to anyone interested in issues of social equality."—Bernard Yack, Brandeis University

"This book is brim full of the acute intelligence, human understanding, and practical wisdom that we have come to expect from Michael Walzer. In Politics and Passion he combines a radical commitment to equality and democracy with a hard-won recognition of the realities of politics.

“This clearly and engagingly written book shows up the thinness of much contemporary liberal theory. Informed by his social democratic convictions, Walzer allows the real dilemmas of egalitarian liberalism to surface, and faces them honestly, without the conjuring tricks and obfuscation that philosophy can lend itself to.”—Charles Taylor, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, McGill University

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780300127706
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Publication date:
10/01/2008
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Michael Walzer is UPS Foundation Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He is the author, editor, or coeditor of more than a dozen books.

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