by Meirav Jones, University of Pennsylvania
The subtitle of Michael Walzer’s monumental first book published in 1965, The Revolution of the Saints, was A Study in the Origins of Radical Politics. In the first chapter of this work, Walzer placed himself among other authors, notably Max Weber and Ernest Tuveson, whose works explored religious movements and ideologies from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as the origins, or background, for ideas that would survive in secularized form once religion became redundant.1 Radical politics, progress, and even the spirit of capitalism, would surpass their religious roots, whereas religion itself was considered a passing phase.
Walzer’s most recent book, again engaged in religion and radical politics, is an about-face and even a call to action against the aspect of his own prior orientation which saw religion as fleeting. In The Paradox of Liberation: Secular Revolutions and Religious Counterrevolutions, Walzer traces three successful secular liberation movements from the mid-twentieth century—the Leftist movements which created the independent states of Israel and India in 1947–1948 and Algeria in 1662—and shows how the initial success of each movement was followed, within thirty years, by a religious counter-revolution.