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Spheres Of Justice: A Defense Of Pluralism And Equality Paperback – September 25, 1984

ISBN-13: 978-0465081899 ISBN-10: 0465081894 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 364 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (September 25, 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465081894
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465081899
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,370 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Michael Walzer is Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey, and the author of many widely heralded books, including Spheres of Justice, Exodus and Revolution, and The Company of Critics, all available from Basic Books. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

74 of 84 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
Before critiquing this book, Mr. Walzer should be given some credit. He manages to make a good argument for pluralism, equality, and the like, and avoids the deus ex machina thought experiments a la Rawls (with "original positions") or the like. For that, Mr. Walzer should be thanked.
Now for the problems. Walzer, author of "Just and Unjust Wars" and "On Toleration" (among many others), is trying to defend a certain order of society where differences can be accepted and equality may be ensured. But Walzer's arguments suffer from a major problem - his starting point(s) are left undefended, and indeed sometimes even undefined. The key to his system is "shared meanings," an idea that he has used in other works (like "Just and Unjust Wars" [J&UW]) under various names. What these shared meanings are, Walzer generally avoids saying directly. As he mentioned in J&UW, Walzer tends to avoid the more complex questions of the foundations for morality and the like - he tends, in practice anyway, to be an antifoundationalist. This presents a problem - he gives the reader all these beautifully reasoned arguments for his idea of society, but always leaves the starting-point out. As such, it is hard to make much of his argument, if you may find yourself in disagreement with his elusive first principles.
Walzer argues that he's starting with "shared meanings," and just following out logically what that entails. In practice, this results in a social democratic, left-oriented society. Fine. But one feels a sleight-of-hand is being played. The "shared meanings" are rather vague. Moreover, "shared" by whom? While Walzer gives some discussion to this, the question lingers.
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39 of 46 people found the following review helpful By dave w on January 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
Spheres of Justice was assigned to me but, years later and the class notes long lost, it has become a loyal, dog-eared partner in my life. Walzer's framework provides a powerful tool for non-philosophers to understand, and then speak-up directly and intelligently for equality and democracy. Nonetheless, the sphere-conceit tends mask and mystify the material bases for some of the situations Walzer uses it to address. This book is not a replacement for Mill, Rawls, Locke, Marx, Kant, and Arrow, but it is a huge span in the bridge between theories advocating equality and public policies that can secure it.
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Tron Honto on July 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
One of the major achievements of this is book just how well-written it is. Like one previous reviewer noted, Walzer is much more readable than authors like Nozick and Rawls (not to demean their incredible works). The strength of this book I have found is uneven. Some topics it treats incredibly and others are sorely wanting. Walzer's work is best at showing how justice is not just a political experience but also an economic, social, cultural, religious, and personal one; thus, this book is not just about politics but also about ethics. I recommend the book highly. It's an easy, memorable read for those interested in the topic therein.
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16 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
Comparing "Spheres of Justice" with other books on distributive justice,(for instance Rawls; "Theory of Justice" and "Political Liberalism") this book by M.Walzer is a page-turner. If the primary goal of a "theory" of justice is a practical one, Walzer makes sense . For most students this book will make it possble to apply ethics to the real world, revealing the veil of ignorance.
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