The political philosophy of Walzer's social criticism

Philosophy and Social Criticism 36 (9):1093-1111 (2010)
This article calls for a critical re-evaluation of Walzer’s theory of justice. It argues that there is a deep tension between Walzer’s social criticism and his complex equality. Social criticism is based on the normative value of a connected and ‘whole’ self, and complex equality is based upon a value pluralism that threatens to fragment this sense of wholeness. Walzer therefore commissions a tacit premise, borrowing from the same ‘political philosophy’ that he explicitly repudiates, and which social criticism is intended to supplant. This premise is a Kantian-inspired conception of self; brought to the argument as an a priori premise and thus in violation of Walzer’s own stated commitment to ‘internalism’ and ‘interpretation’. Furthermore, this same conception of self is the moral source of Walzer’s substantive commitment to the universal value of pluralist political regimes. The article closes with a suggested reconciliation of the inherent tension within Walzer’s theory
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DOI 10.1177/0191453710384355
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