Complex equality, relativism and critical perspective: Michael Walzer and his critics
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AbstractIn this thesis, Michael Walzer's theory of complex equality is examined to see whether it is, as some of its critics have claimed, a relativistic theory of justice. In order to do this, the theory itself is set in the context of the so-called 'liberal-communitarian debate', since it is best considered a communitarian theory. Some of its more important aspects are made clear, especially its basis in what Walzer calls the "common life" of a political community and in a specific theory about the social origins of social goods (Chapter One). Then the views of four critics (Joshua Cohen, Susan Moller - Okin, Ronald Dworkin and Norman Daniels) are considered, and Walzer is defended against charges of relativism. A specific notion of incommensurability is introduced and attributed to Walzer, and his notion of a universal, if minimal, code of moral prohibitions is introduced, both by way of responding to the relativism charge (Chapter Two). The defense is continued by way of offering a contextualist, historicistic reading of Walzer that stresses his emphasis on moral justification rather than moral truth. The charge that his theory lacks critical distance, which is linked to the relativism charge, is considered, and the conclusion reached that while on the basis of the Walzer's writings so far we should consider that there is a possible moral conservatism (linked to his communitarianism) inherent in his view, his thinking appears to be in transition. He may be moving out of the communitarian camp, into the space between the liberals and the communitarians (Chapter 3).
Bibliography: p. 149-158.
CitationToombs, B. (1989). Complex equality, relativism and critical perspective: Michael Walzer and his critics (Unpublished master's thesis). University of Calgary, Calgary, AB. doi:10.11575/PRISM/12142
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