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On Toleration (Castle Lectures Series) Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 27, 1997

4.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, March 27, 1997
$15.65 $11.51

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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

Political philosopher (Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study; The Spheres of Justice, 1983, etc.) and social critic Walzer delivers elegantly turned, highly nuanced reflections on what it takes in a democratic society for different groups to live together in peace. Walzer regards toleration--making room in society for people whose beliefs and practices you don't share--as the principal work of democratic citizens. Toleration embraces a continuum of attitudes, from simple indifference to differences; resigned acceptance of them; principled recognition of the right to be different; to curiosity and even enthusiasm about human variation. Walzer identifies five historical models or regimes that encourage toleration and ultimately presents an analysis and defense of the approach that he believes works best for a multicultural US on the threshhold of the 21st century. Unlike other multiethnic models, such as multinational empires (like the USSR, which could be repressive but ruled more evenhandedly than local majorities were likely to do) or nation-states (in which one group shapes national life but tolerates members of minority groups as individual citizens), ours is an immigrant society, and Walzer explores the distinctive qualities that tend to keep the manifold parts of America's ``dispersed diversity'' cohesive, despite recent contentious assertions of various group identities in public life. Since contemporary American society is not only a pluralism of groups, but also a pluralism of individuals, there's a synergy between the pull of associational life and radical individualism that functions to knit us together. Walzer speaks of the paradoxes of power in democratic society with clarity and eloquence. He not only maintains that the US has become socially (though not economically) more egalitarian over the last 50 years, but he also confirms its capacity for further evolution, while conceding that this process may not always be harmonious. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.


Michael Walzer's thoughts on toleration are sweeping and lofty, but--regrettably--he writes with a theoretician's myopia and a sad degree of historical naïveté. Mr. Walzer, who teaches social science at the Institute for Advanced Study, discusses models for governments, nation-states, multinational empires, "consociations" ... and immigrant societies.... But Mr. Walzer ignores all frictions within these models...For people actually facing intolerance, who would welcome clear boundaries and secure identities, say, the refugees of Bosnia or Rwanda--this book has singularly little to say. -- The New York Times Book Review, Allen D. Boyer

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Product Details

  • Series: Castle Lectures Series
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (March 27, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300070195
  • ASIN: B006J42UFE
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,896,299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Toleration in Walzer's mind is an explicitly political phenomenon in which some form of political space is opened up for minority groups. The core of Walzer's work is an analysis of five types (regimes) of toleration in history: multinational empire, international society, consociations, nation states, and immigrant societies. On top of this Walzer offers a brief discussion on some "interesting cases" the most interesting of which were the French and Canadian ones.

Where Walzer's discussion is interesting is his depiction of toleration as necessary but by no means idyllic hence Walzer writes that (p. 98)"toleration brings an end to persecution and fearfulness, but it is not a formula for social harmony. The newly tolerated groups, insofar as they are really different, will often also be antagonistic, and they will seek political advantage."

Toleration is, in short, absolutely necessary for democratic life. Moreover, it is never a done deal; minorities may become (political) majorities who may well need to learn the virtue/necessity of tolerating others.

Overall, On Toleration is a solid although I must say unremarkable discussion of the political aspects of toleration and the associated issues of liberalism and communitarianism with which Walzer has sometimes been identified.
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Format: Paperback
This book's strength lies in its many examples and systematic structure. The topic is engaging, and it will keep you reading. The fact that it was begotten out of a lecture series helps to keep it brief and not overly wordy. Worth the read if you are interested in the relationship between different groups.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent work on the topic by an expert, very readable and presents another set of questions in contemporary social philosophy which are very difficult to answer.
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