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Politics and Passion

Politics and Passion: Toward a More Egalitarian Liberalism

Michael Walzer
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Politics and Passion
    Book Description:

    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 Passionwill be required reading for anyone interested in social justice-and the means by which we seek to achieve it.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12770-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. INTRODUCTION: Liberalism and Inequality
    (pp. ix-xvi)

    Although theLword — liberalism — was, for a time, pure poison in American politics, it has long been the universal antidote of American political theory. Liberal democracy is the rule of the many without its dangers—with minorities protected and human rights guaranteed. Liberal religion is a faith free of dogma—and a church that acknowledges the legitimacy of other churches. Liberal nationalism is the very opposite of a parochial or chauvinist ideology. A liberal revolution is pure velvet; it never ends in a reign of terror. Liberal authoritarianism describes an undemocratic regime that opens limited room for political dissent...

  4. ONE Involuntary Association
    (pp. 1-20)

    The people I know are constantly forming associations, and they greatly value the freedom to associate as they please, with all sorts of people, for all sorts of purposes. They are certainly right: freedom of association is a central value, a fundamental requirement, of liberal society and democratic politics. But it is a mistake to generalize this value and try to call into being, in theory or in practice, a world where all associations are voluntary, a social union composed entirely of freely constituted social unions. The ideal picture of autonomous individuals choosing their connections (and disconnections) without constraints of...

  5. TWO The Collectivism of Powerlessness
    (pp. 21-43)

    Power is the currency of politics, the universal medium that makes all things possible. It necessarily figures even in liberal political science, which might more comfortably occupy itself with argument, deliberation, and consent. From the outset, liberal writers and activists aimed at limiting power. They began by challenging kings but aimed to set limits everywhere, even (sometimes especially) on the collective decisions of the “people.” They agreed early on that the best way to set limits was to divide and disperse the capacity to exercise power. The famous separation of the three branches of government, described inThe Federalist,required...

  6. THREE Cultural Rights
    (pp. 44-65)

    Cultural commnities are involuntary associations in exactly the sense that I suggested in the first chapter. Individuals are enrolled by their parents, and although there is considerable coming and going in subsequent years, most people hover around the groups in which they have been enrolled, sometimes drifting away from their practices and beliefs, sometimes drifting back. I want to consider one of the claims that some groups of this sort make on the larger society—a claim not (or not primarily) for material support but for “cultural rights.” The negotiation of such claims often figures in the politics of recognition...

  7. FOUR Civil Society and the State
    (pp. 66-89)

    Civil society is a descriptive term, a sociological construction, and a liberal dream. The dream is spun out of the theory of voluntary association: it evokes a world that includes all the social groups where membership is freely chosen and non-coercive—and only those. The family, whose members are not volunteers, is left out, and so is the state, which, even if its legitimacy rests on the consent of its members, wields coercive power over them.¹ Between these two, autonomous individuals form a multitude of associations and move freely from one group to another or from core activism to peripheral...

  8. FIVE Deliberation . . . and What Else?
    (pp. 90-109)

    Deliberative democracy is the American version of German theories of communicative action and ideal speech. Characteristically, it exists at a lower level of philosophical development and justification—which makes it more accessible to people like me, who live at that lower level—and its defenders turn more readily than German philosophers do to questions of public policy and institutional arrangements. They are not focused on the rationally ascertainable presuppositions of human discourse but rather on the practical organization and likely outcomes of normatively constrained political arguments. The presuppositions are presupposed, without any elaborate demonstration of their philosophical standing.

    Still, deliberative...

  9. SIX Politics and Passion
    (pp. 110-130)

    There is a hidden issue at the heart of contemporary debates about nationalism, identity politics, and religious fundamentalism. The issue is passion. Opponents of these phenomena fear the vehement rhetoric, the unthinking engagement, the rage against opponents that they associate with the appearance of passionate men and women in the political arena. They associate passion with collective identification and religious belief—both of which lead people to act in ways that can’t be predicted by any rational account of their interests and that don’t follow from any rationally defensible set of principles.

    Interests can be negotiated, principles can be debated,...

  10. CONCLUSION: Global Equality
    (pp. 131-140)

    My argument has focused on domestic society—appropriately, since liberalism is above all a domestic theory, designed to address the relationships of individuals to one another and to the state. The justice of particular states and societies and the rights of individuals as citizens and aliens: these are its primary concerns. But the greatest inequalities, the most terrifying misery, the ugliest forms of human degradation now exist in international society—which is to say, they are attributable (in part) to economic policies and practices that have global reach, and they are measurable across state boundaries. Some countries, despite the great...

  11. APPENDIX: The Communitarian Critique of Liberalism
    (pp. 141-164)
  12. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 165-166)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 167-178)
  14. Index
    (pp. 179-184)