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Do you consider that your work belongs to the field of "political theory", and why?
I like to think of myself as someone who writes about politics. All my books and most of my articles are political arguments, interventions in contemporary debates. But I have made a living under the name "political theorist", and at least some of my work rises—though not very high—to the theoretical level. My theorising is always close to the ground. One sign of this is my use of historical examples rather than the (often weird) hypothetical examples that figure in analytic philosophy. Nor do my different ventures into theory add up to a systematic Theory (as some of my critics have pointed out). Theorising for this and then that other occasion doesn't make for consistency. I think that I have a consistent politics, but my theoretical perspective is differently located and differently distanced for different purposes. Sometimes I argue for universal principles, as in my book on war, and sometimes I am committed in principle to a local or particularist perspective, as in my book on social justice.
When I was considering graduate school, my teachers at Brandeis University recommended that I apply in political science because political science, they said, isn't a discipline: "you can do whatever you want". Political theory is even more open, since theorists make no claim to anything like scientific objectivity. We have a license to defend particular political positions and to do that in different ways…

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Michael Walzer
Michael Walzer is professor (emeritus) of social science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. His books include Just and Unjust Wars (A. Lane/Basic Books, 1977), Spheres of Justice (Martin Robertson, 1983), Interpretation and Social Criticism (Harvard University Press, 1987), and The Paradox of Liberation (Yale University Press, 2015). He was for many years the co-editor of Dissent Magazine.
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Uploaded on on 27/01/2022
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