Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681373539
Pages: 120
Publication Date: February 26, 2019

Political ActionA Practical Guide to Movement Politics

by Michael Walzer, with an introduction by Jon Wiener, and a new preface by the author


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Michael Walzer is one of the finest political philosophers of our time, but Political Action is, true to its title, not a book of theory but a manual for taking action. Written in the early 1970s and drawing on Walzer’s own experience as an activist in the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s, Political Action concisely sets out the goals and constraints of movement politics and describes how activists can keep going in the face of disappointment and even defeat. The book offers more than a “how-to”; it provides a “what-to-do.” It covers in careful detail the problems that inevitably arise when people come together from shared outrage or fear of looming disaster: whether to focus on one issue or many; whether and how to work in electoral politics; how to raise money; when to and when not to join coalitions; how to organize democratically; how to provide effective leadership—and much more. Through it all, Walzer insists on the centrality of political resistance to the life of a democratic society, and talks of the deep satisfaction that can only come from active political engagement.

Political Action remains as clear-sighted, practical, inspiring, and necessary a book today as when came it out almost fifty years ago.


Michael Walzer is a writer of rare elegance, intellectual range and moral seriousness.
—J. Peter Euben, The New York Times

Michael Walzer’s originality lies in his ability to extend the work of his precursors into new fields.
—John Murray Cuddihy, The New York Times

Michael Walzer [is] the unanointed dean of the American left.
The Wall Street Journal

[A] stable and prudent approach to political action.
Virginia Quarterly Review

[One] of the truly significant American political thinkers of our time.
—William A. Gaston, Political Theory