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Title: Michael Walzer on Justice
Keywords: Justice, Morality, War, Interpretation, Universalism, Inter-subjectivity
Issue Date: 19-Jan-2010
Citation: LIM WEI CHUNG (2010-01-19). Michael Walzer on Justice. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: Michael Walzer has been criticized as an inconsistent theorist who defends moral universalism in Just and Unjust Wars and subsequently rejects it in favor of moral relativism in Spheres of Justice. In this thesis, I respond to this criticism, arguing that Walzer has a coherent idea of justice that is consistently displayed in the books. In this thesis, I will conduct a careful study of Just and Unjust Wars and Spheres of Justice to support my conclusion that, in both books, the state exists as a legal entity whose purpose is to protect both the community it constitutes and regulates and the rights of the individuals living in the community. In this interconnected relationship between state, community and individual, tensions arise in two ways. First, state authority generally implies a degree of coercion. Although coercion is sometimes permissible (say, to protect individuals from violence), it is conceptually in tension with the liberties of the individual. At the practical level, tensions also surface when the state does not adequately protect the community, or when the community does not recognize the authority of the state. In short, I argue that Just and Unjust Wars and Spheres of Justice are not as inconsistent as they seem, for they can be studied as a single discourse on two types of tension: 1) a conceptual tension between the authority of the state, the rights of the individual and the common life of the community; and 2) a practical tension in human relationship, where the world of politics is often characterized by situations of communal resistance to tyranny. It is these two tensions, found across Just and Unjust Wars and Spheres of Justice, which constitute a relationship between the two books. Critics tend to challenge the theoretical foundations of Just and Unjust Wars and Spheres of Justice from a practical standpoint, or raise practical issues that are beyond the books¿ theoretical competencies. Understanding this distinction between theory and practice¿and then exploring the tensions that arise in each domain¿will help us resolve some of these criticisms. Although it is true that Walzer¿s moral judgment in the practice of justice is not always satisfying, his writings reveal a scholar¿s personal dedication to stand with the powerless, the oppressed and the poor in the world of politics, rather than with theorists in the realm of moral and political philosophy. This is a view seldom acknowledged by critics, and it is the view that I seek to develop in this thesis.
Appears in Collections:Master's Theses (Open)

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