What It Means to Be an American

Michael Walzer, Author Marsilio Publishers $18 (124p) ISBN 978-0-941419-66-6
Thoughtful and erudite, political scientist Walzer ( Just and Unjust Wars ) argues for a stronger, more engaged sense of citizenship in these four short previously published essays dating from 1974 to 1990. While the pieces are largely theoretical, Walzer, as if reacting to current societal tensions, offers policy advice in the introduction: don't end immigration; strengthen the public schools; channel universal health care through religious associations. In ``Pluralism: A Political Perspective'' (which originally appeared in The Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups ), he delves into history to find that ``national and ethnic pluralism has been the rule, not the exception'' and analyzes how the state can support ethnic groups without resorting to corporatism. Discussing the common expectations of citizenship in ``Civility and Civic Virtue in Contemporary America'' (reprinted from the journal Social Research ), he argues for a decentralization of governmental activity and ``a radical democratization of corporate government.'' In the title piece (also reprinted from Social Research ), he celebrates the ``incoherence'' of pluralism, and in ``Constitutional Rights and the Shape of Civil Society'' (written for a conference at DePauw University) he probes how the Constitution ``facilitates the defense but also the transformation of civil society.'' (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 09/28/1992
Release date: 10/01/1992
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