POLITICAL ACTION by Michael Walzer


A Practical Guide to Movement Politics
Email this review


The reissue of a political action guidebook that has withstood the evolution of American government.

Originally published in 1971 and preceding a prolific oeuvre of treatises and foreign policy critiques, Walzer’s (Emeritus, Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton; A Foreign Policy for the Left, 2018, etc.) first political call to action resonates as much in today’s tense, precarious climate as it did when the author originally crafted it. Writing in the weeks just following the American invasion of Cambodia, the author drew ideas and inspiration from his experiences as a civil rights and anti-war activist. Throughout this brief, lucid guide, he illustrates the sequential steps necessary to become active in citizen politics, beginning with discovering a movement one is passionate about, finding support, and discovering an initiative that “belongs to its members, as do, for a time at least, the crucial decisions.” While the author educates and instructs on the nuances of resistance movements, he also cautions readers against the dangers of hubris and avoiding the pitfalls of indulging in the “fantasies of social and political changes they cannot actually bring about.” He poses key questions on whether movements should be single issue–oriented or represent a palette of special interests. The answers, viewed through Walzer’s highly practical, intellectual lens, steer budding movements toward a single cause initially. He counsels readers on the importance of a movement projecting a “national image,” lists the qualities inherent in an effective leader, the pros and cons of money raised and spent, strategic tactical political maneuvers, and how to cope with both internal and external conflict and antagonism. “Solidarity is a political tie,” he writes, “subject to political strains.” Ultimately, Walzer’s potent manual validates protest movements of the past while underscoring the relevance of resistance initiatives in the contemporary political climate. With a new preface by the author and introduction by Nation contributing editor Jon Wiener, this remains an inspired political motivating tool and an erudite work of political food for thought.

An authoritative master plan for forming effective, influential citizen activism.

Pub Date: Feb. 5th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-68137-353-9
Page count: 110pp
Publisher: New York Review Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2019


NonfictionON TOLERATION by Michael Walzer
by Michael Walzer
NonfictionTHICK AND THIN by Michael Walzer
by Michael Walzer


NonfictionHISTORY TEACHES US TO RESIST by Mary Frances Berry
by Mary Frances Berry
NonfictionTHE MARGINALIZED MAJORITY by Onnesha Roychoudhuri
by Onnesha Roychoudhuri