Joint Straus/Tikvah Fellow

Academic Year 2010-2011

Michael Walzer

Michael Walzer

Michael Walzer (Joint Straus/Tikvah Fellow) is Professor Emeritus of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ. As a professor, author, editor, and lecturer, Michael Walzer has addressed a wide variety of topics in political theory and moral philosophy: political obligation, just and unjust war, nationalism and ethnicity, economic justice and the welfare state.  His books (among them Just and Unjust Wars, Spheres of Justice, The Company of Critics, Thick and Thin:  Moral Argument at Home and Abroad, and On Toleration) and essays have played a part in the revival of practical, issue-focused ethics and in the development of a pluralist approach to political and moral life.  Walzer is a Contributing Editor for The New Republic, and co-editor of Dissent, now in its 55th year.  His articles and interviews frequently appear in the world’s foremost newspapers and journals. He is currently working on the toleration and accommodation of "difference" in all its forms, and also on the third volume of The Jewish Political Tradition, a comprehensive collaborative project focused on the history of Jewish political thought.


A Political Theorist Reads the Hebrew Bible

I am trying to write, trying to build up the confidence necessary to write, a book on biblical politics: a political theorist reads the Hebrew bible. I have a table of contents, and most of the chapters actually exist in some form. And I have a kind of introduction, or project description, which is what I will read on the 13th. Here is the list of possible chapters (I have published early versions of 3, 4, 7, and 12):

  1. Introduction
  2. The Meaning of the Covenant
  3. Three Legal Codes
  4. Holy War
  5. The Rule of Kings
  6. What Prophets Do
  7. Prophecy and International Politics
  8. The Experience of Exile
  9. Priests and Priestcraft
  10. The Politics of Wisdom
  11. Messianism
  12. Where Were the Elders?
  13. Conclusion

Other potential research ideas:

I have two interconnected projects for my year at the Straus Institute. In January 2010, I gave the Dewey Lecture at the University of Chicago Law School, on political justice. I talked about the trials of Charles and Louis by the revolutionaries who overthrew them, the Moscow purge trials of the 1930s, the Nuremberg trials, and then the trials that some people would like to hold for leading members of the Bush administration. The idea was to do a comparative politics of political trials, but I also attempted to defend trials of the first and third kinds and to argue against trials of the second and fourth kinds. So my first project is to try to work this up into a longish article or possibly something more.

My second project is a short book, if things work out, on the role of the state in international society, with particular reference to criminal justice and distributive justice. I am thinking of three long essays. The first would ask “What are states for?” and provide a list of all the things that states (still) do—and criticize some of the people who argue that we are in a post‐Westphalian age and that sovereignty is no longer of great value. The second would ask how states and international courts cooperate or compete in doing justice to state officials and military officers accused of crimes against humanity or war crimes. The third would ask how states and international agencies work together, or don’t, in dealing with poverty and disease—and, more generally, with global inequality. I will want to express skepticism about global governance in any of its singular versions while also looking for some forms of international regulation, humanitarian intervention, and law enforcement.

I don’t promise to find what I am looking for, but “some forms” is open‐ended and minimalist; I should come up with something.

jerusalem old city - Gary Hardman