Social Theory and Practice 38 (4):663-688 (2012)

Graham Parsons
United States Military Academy
In his Just and Unjust Wars, Michael Walzer claims that his theory of just war is based on the rights of individuals to life and liberty. This is not the case. Walzer in fact bases his theory of jus ad bellum on the supreme rights of supra-individual political communities. According to his theory of jus ad bellum, the rights of political communities are of utmost importance, and individuals can be sacrificed for the sake of these communal rights. At the same time, Walzer bases his theory of jus in bello on the supreme rights of individuals to life and liberty. According to his theory of jus in bello, the rights of individuals are of utmost importance, and political communities can never permissibly violate them in war. Thus, Walzer’s theory of just war is based on two incompatible theories of justice. This explains why Walzer’s theory produces incoherent practical prescriptions in cases of supreme emergencies. Furthermore, it is impossible for Walzer to base his theory of jus ad bellum on the rights of individuals as he conceives them. The theory of jus ad bellum holds that soldiers are obligated to obey the commands of their political superiors. However, this obligation violates the rights of individuals in a number of respects. This is why Walzer does not base the theory of jus ad bellum on individual rights, and produces an incoherent theory.
Keywords Applied Philosophy  Social and Political Philosophy
Categories (categorize this paper)
ISBN(s) 0037-802X
DOI soctheorpract201238436
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 59,064
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

The Incoherence of Walzer’s Just War Theory.Graham Parsons - 2012 - Social Theory and Practice 38 (4):663-88.
The Sources and Status of Just War Principles.Jeff McMahan - 2007 - Journal of Military Ethics 6 (2):91-106.
Reading Walzer.Yitzhak Benbaji & Naomi Sussmann (eds.) - 2013 - Routledge.
Marxism, Internationalism, and the Justice of War.Darrel Moellendorf - 1994 - Science and Society 58 (3):264 - 286.
Eschatology in the Political Theory of Michael Walzer.Alan Revering - 2005 - Journal of Religious Ethics 33 (1):91-117.
How to Judge Soldiers Whose Cause is Unjust.Judith Lichtenberg - 2008 - In David Rodin & Henry Shue (eds.), Just and Unjust Warriors: The Moral and Legal Status of Soldiers. Oxford University Press. pp. 112--130.
Reassessing Walzer’s Social Criticism.Marcus Agnafors - 2012 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 38 (9):917-937.
Reconciling Just Causes for Armed Humanitarian Intervention.Eamon Aloyo - 2016 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 19 (2):313-328.
The Political Philosophy of Walzer’s Social Criticism.James Gregory - 2010 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 36 (9):1093-1111.
The Leaders and the Led: Problems of Just War Theory.C. A. J. Coady - 1980 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 23 (3):275 – 291.
The Dualism of Modern Just War Theory.Graham Parsons - 2017 - Philosophia 45 (2):751-771.


Added to PP index

Total views
10 ( #853,304 of 2,427,711 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #521,211 of 2,427,711 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes