Michael Walzer on War and Justice

Michael Walzer on War and Justice

Brian Orend
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 234
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  • Book Info
    Michael Walzer on War and Justice
    Book Description:

    In Michael Walzer on War and Justice Brian Orend offers the first clear and comprehensive look at Walzer's entire body of work. He deals with controversial subjects - from bullets, blood, and bombs to the distribution of money, political power, and health care - and surveys both the national and the international fields of justice. This is an important book that provides a thought-provoking and critical look at some of the most pressing and controversial topics of our time.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6942-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-viii)
    Brian Orend
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Michael Walzer’s renown as a contemporary political philosopher rests most heavily on his accomplishments in two fields: his earlier theory of justice in war and his later theory of distributive justice. He has written about bullets, bombs and blood, on the one hand, and the distribution of money, power and health care on the other. The stark differences between these two topics have meant that each has generated its own critical discourse. Very few scholars broach the question of how these two projects might be linked in a broader account of justice in general.

    This study of Walzer’s work will...

  5. 1 Interpretation: The Method of Walzer’s General Theory of Justice
    (pp. 9-30)

    Any theory of just war depends upon a broader theory of justice, and Michael Walzer’s is no exception. Since the broader theory is logically prior to the just war theory, we must examine Walzer’s thoughts about justice in general before delving into his provocative perspective on the relationship between justice and armed force. The difficulty with this is that Walzer’s general theory of justice is neither simple nor, at first glance, clear. Walzer has resisted the temptation to write a single, all-encompassing tome which elucidates his general theory. This makes for harder, but perhaps more interesting, labour on the part...

  6. 2 Thick and Thin: The Content of Walzer’s General Theory of Justice
    (pp. 31-60)

    Walzer argues that, if we apply his interpretative method to contemporary issues in moral and political philosophy, the most defensible conclusion we shall reach is that we are all committed to both thin and thick codes of conduct and social organization. For Walzer, we start off with an interpretative framework or procedure, and we end up, as the best interpretation, with two substantive sets of values, the one being nested within the other. This idea, of the thin being contained within the thick, is captured in the epigraph above. The purpose of this chapter is to explain and examine in...

  7. 3 Walzer on Alternatives to Just War Theory
    (pp. 61-85)

    Before exploring the substance of Walzer’s just war theory, we should consider his most controversial presuppositions. The first is that the thin, universally shared moral code commits us to the idea that wars can sometimes be just. The second is that this just war code, when best interpreted, enshrines human rights protection. The first claim has been called into question by competing doctrines of realism and pacifism, the second by rival conceptions of justice in wartime, particularly utilitarianism.

    Walzer’s just war theory is rooted in his conventionalist methodology, according to which we must examine, and best explain, our shared public...

  8. 4 Aggression and Defence: Walzer’s Theory of Jus ad Bellum
    (pp. 86-109)

    Jus ad heliumis a Latin term, referring to the justice of resorting to war. Walzer says the rules ofjus ad beliumare addressed, first and foremost, to heads of state. Since political leaders are the ones who inaugurate wars, setting their armed forces in motion, they are to be held accountable tojus ad beliumprinciples. If they fail in that responsibility, then they commit war crimes. In the language of the Nuremberg prosecutors, aggressive leaders who launch unjust wars commit ‘crimes against peace’. What constitutes a just or unjust resort to armed force is disclosed to us...

  9. 5 Innocence and Emergency: Walzer’s Theory of Jus in Bello
    (pp. 110-134)

    Jus in bello’ is the Latin term just war theorists use to refer to justice in war, to right conduct in the midst of battle. Walzer insists thatjus in bellois a category separate fromjus ad bellum. He reasons that we have not finished our normative labour once we have determined whether a state has resorted to war justly, using the principles developed in the last chapter. For even if a state has resorted to war justly, it may be prosecuting that war in an unjustified manner. It may be deploying decrepit means in pursuit of its otherwise...

  10. 6 Terms of Peace: Walzer’s Theory of Jus post Bellum
    (pp. 135-152)

    Jus post bellumrefers to justice after war. It concerns the propriety of conduct during the termination phase of war: the lead-up to, and immediate aftermath of, signing a peace treaty which brings the war in question to an end. This is a neglected, yet important, issue in just war theory. Its import seems only to have grown in recent years, as any reflection on the difficult termination phases during the Persian Gulf War, the Bosnian civil war, and NATO’s Kosovo intervention will disclose. To his credit, Walzer does not ignore this topic, as far too many just war theorists...

  11. 7 Considering Globalism, Proposing Pluralism: Walzer on International Justice in General
    (pp. 153-179)

    Many, if not most, of Walzer’s critics have accused him of being insufficiently critical of the status quo of international relations. They believe that his conventionalism is intrinsically conservative and that his just war theory, influential as it has been, merely serves as a kind of bandage over the real wound: the radical deficiencies of the current world structure. Instead of trying to develop and explain rules regulating warfare, they ask, why not work for a world in which war becomes a thing of the past? Instead of presupposing – some say fetishizing – the existence of the nation-state, why...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 180-196)

    Walzer’s renown as a contemporary political philosopher rests most heavily on his accomplishments in two fields: distributive justice and just war theory. The stark differences between the two topics has meant that each issue has generated its own critical discourse, with very few scholars broaching the question of how these two projects might be linked in a broader account of justice in general. That they are linked we now know to be the case. The link is at least twofold: formal, since Walzer’s treatment of both topics demands we take a conventionalist, interpretative approach; and material, since Walzer’s substantive principles...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 197-215)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 216-221)
  15. Index
    (pp. 222-226)