Michael Walzer is Professor Emeritus in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study and coeditor emeritus of Dissent. His new book is The Paradox of Liberation: Secular Revolutions and Religious Counterrevolutions.
 (March 2015)

Is the Right Choice a Good Bargain?

Cass Sunstein and Reid Hastie’s recent book about how to make group decisions “wiser” has a strange text on its copyright page: the Harvard Business Review Press will, for large orders of the book from companies and corporations, provide special printings with the company logo displayed on a customized cover …

Imaginary Jews

Rembrandt: Portrait of an Old Jew, 1654
David Nirenberg’s book Anti-Judaism isn’t a history of the Jewish experience of discrimination, persecution, and genocide; nor is it an indictment of contemporary anti-Zionism or a defense of the state of Israel. The book is not about Jews at all or, at least, not about real Jews; it deals extensively and almost exclusively with imaginary Jews. What Nirenberg has written is an intellectual history of Western civilization, seen from a peculiar but frighteningly revealing perspective.

Israel: Civilians & Combatants

Israeli soldiers returning from the war in Gaza, near the Israeli town of Sderot, January 18, 2009
In 2005, Asa Kasher and Amos Yadlin published in an American academic journal “Assassination and Preventive Killing,”[^1] an essay that explores the issue of “assassination within the framework of fighting terror.” There are good reasons to believe that the political and practical significance of this essay goes far beyond its …

The Right Way

There are two ways of opposing a war with Iraq. The first way is simple and wrong; the second way is right but difficult. The first way is to deny that the Iraqi regime is particularly ugly, that it lies somewhere outside the range of ordinary states, or to argue …

Are There Limits to Liberalism?

In his famous essay on Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Isaiah Berlin divides writers about human affairs—philosophers, historians, social theorists, novelists, and poets—into two categories that he names, engagingly, hedgehogs and foxes, making his own a line from the Greek poet Archilochus: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows …

Flight from Philosophy

In 1962, Bernard Crick, more recently the biographer of Orwell, published a short book called In Defense of Politics.[^1] Crick’s book was a high-spirited celebration of politics in the form of a polemic against a host of enemies, some of them now long forgotten: social engineers and technocrats, political scientists …

What’s Left of Marx?

Jon Elster is a Norwegian political scientist who works at the Institute for Social Research in Oslo and teaches at the University of Chicago. He has written a number of lively and contentious books, chiefly in the philosophy of the social sciences, and this most recent book, still lively and …

Timerman and His Enemies

“No one had to impose my enemies on me. I selected them myself. I didn’t avoid them: I pointed them out, marked them, attacked them.” Jacobo Timerman is, by all accounts, a brave, irascible, and combative man. It is nevertheless not entirely true that he selected his enemies himself. As …

Life with Father

In April of 1913, R.H. Tawney wrote in his commonplace book: “People want rights—freedom, in order that they may perform duties. The hardship of the wage-earner is not simply that he has insufficient food and housing, but that he is deprived of the means of performing certain primary duties, care …

The New Masters

When Shelley wrote that poets are “the unacknowledged legislators of the world,” he was not speaking in metaphor. He meant that they really do discover, shape, and announce the moral law. But Shelley was not making a political claim. He did not mean that the power of poetry should be …

Nervous Liberals

A genuine conservatism expresses a sense of crisis and imminent or actual loss. Its tone is perfectly caught in the opening lines of Richard Hooker’s Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, where Hooker explains his purpose in writing: “Though for no other cause, yet for this, that posterity may know that we …

Must Democracy Be Capitalist?

Marxists have always stressed the great political power, the dominating role, of businessmen in capitalist states. But they have generally been too little interested in the actual structures of those states, too little appreciative of their complexity and diversity to analyze that power in detail or to provide a convincing …

Rebels Without a Cause

This long work consists of seventeen case studies of revolutionary religious movements—which range over history from the Maccabean Revolt to the Taiping Rebellion to Catholic radicalism in contemporary Latin America—with an introduction and seven chapters of theoretical conclusions. In his preface, however, Guenter Lewy suggests that readers interested in his …